The Adventures of Hugh Trevor
Part 9 out of 12
representatives of the people?'
Without wearying the reader with the arguments that were adduced, let
it suffice to inform him that we all agreed it was a very doubtful
case; that, in this as in numerous other instances, manners, customs,
and laws, obliged us to conform to many things which were odiously
vicious; and that to live in society and rigidly observe those rules
of justice which would best promote the general happiness was,
speaking absolutely, a thing impossible.
Whether the greatest political characters would best fulfil their
duties by refusing to submit to the corrupt influence of elections,
to test-oaths, and to the mischiefs of ministerial management within
the walls, or whether they ought to comply with them, and exert their
utmost faculties in pointing out these evils and endeavouring to have
them redressed, was a point on which we all seemed to think the wisest
men might suspend their judgment.
In one thing we appeared to be entirely agreed: which was that such
pernicious practices were in all probability more frequently exposed,
and brought into public discussion, through the medium of an assembly
like this, than they would be did no such assembly exist.
Neither must I detail what afterward passed, before I was brought to
accept the proposal of Mr. Evelyn. It would be tedious.
This proposal did not confine itself to the single act of giving me
a seat in parliament; and of furnishing me with a qualification. It
insisted that the qualification should be a real and not a fictitious
To accept the actual possession of three hundred a-year as a bounty,
for which I could make no return, was I own humiliating to my pride.
It made the question continually recur--'Whether it did not give me
the air of an impostor? A kind of swindler of sentiment? A pretender
to superior virtue, for the purpose of gratifying vice?' It seemed at
a blow to rob me of all independence; and leave me a manacled slave to
the opinions, not only of Mr. Evelyn, but, by a kind of consignment,
of his relation the Baronet; and even to both their humours.
In fine, it was a most painful sacrifice; and required all the amenity
and active friendship of Mr. Evelyn to bring to my mind, not only my
duties, but, the power that I should have at any time of resigning
my seat, returning the deeds, and sheltering myself in my primitive
To this I added a condition, without which my refusal would have
been absolute. It was that I should give a deed of mortgage, bearing
interest, to the full value of the lands assigned.
I shall forbear to dwell on sensations that were very active at the
moment; which, on one hand, related to all that concerned Mr. Evelyn,
my obligations, and something like dependence; and, on the other, to
my sudden promised elevation toward the sphere in which my ambition
was so eagerly desirous to move. Neither will I insist on that which
caused my heart to beat yet more high, the approach that I thus made
to the lovely object of all my wishes.
Leaving this endless train of meditation, I proceed to relate events
as they occurred.
I attended Mr. Evelyn, according to appointment; and paid my respects
to his cousin, Sir Barnard. Having engaged myself thus far, I own I
was sufficiently piqued to desire to make a favourable impression: in
which I was almost as successful as I myself had hoped.
At the first sight of me the Baronet was prepossessed; and when we
entered into conversation and he gave me an opportunity of uttering my
sentiments concerning men and measures, I painted so forcibly that he
was almost in raptures.
The only circumstance in which I failed was my frequent interruption,
and impatience, when he in turn began to declaim. I had the vice of
orators: I heard no man's arguments, or language, that pleased me so
well as my own. I could not listen without an irritating anxiety,
that was for ever prompting me to supply a word, suggest a thought,
or detect a blunder. And, to a man who loves to make a speech, it is
intolerably mortifying to hear himself corrected, and cut short, in
the middle of a sentence.
However I was sufficiently guarded not to give any offence that was
strong enough to be remembered; and Sir Barnard was so thoroughly
engrossed, by the idea of the conspicuous figure which he and his new
member should make in the house, that he was absolutely impatient to
secure me: being fully persuaded that he had discovered a treasure;
of which now, at a general election, he was in considerable danger of
The only precaution he took was to draw from me repeated asseverations
that I would not desert the cause of the people: by which, as I
afterward found, he understood his own private opinions; and not
that which he had literally expressed. On this head he seemed never
satisfied; and the terms in which he spoke, both of the member who had
deserted him and of all political tergiversation whatever, were the
bitterest that his memory could supply.
_A dinner party, and fortune in good humour: The opera house, and
small talk: Sagacious female discoveries: Olivia, and the art of
fascinating: An old acquaintance suddenly seen and dreaded, though
despised: Timely recollection: The opera great room, and more
These points settled, the Baronet proposed to introduce me to his
friends and connections, particularly of the political kind. For this
purpose he began with inviting me and Mr. Evelyn to dine with him on
the Friday following, when he was to have a mixed party of ladies and
gentlemen, but chiefly of such as agreed with him on public affairs.
When the day came, I was presented to the company by the Baronet with
encomiums, and seated on the left of Lady Bray. A Scotch lord was on
her right: it being her ladyship's custom to divide the ladies and
A young fellow properly introduced, if he be new in the circles of
fashion and possessed of a tolerable figure, is in no danger of being
ill received. I had not indeed learned to be an adept at small talk:
a qualification which, contemptible as it is, will supply the want
of every superior requisite, whether of mind or person: but I had an
aptitude to oblige, be attentive, and speak the moment I found I had
any thing to say.
I had laid no plan on this occasion: not having then read, or not
remembering, I know not which, Lord Chesterfield's sage reflections,
on the necessity of a statesman's being well with the ladies.
It happened however that, on this occasion, I was received with
distinguished marks of approbation by the dear angels: from several of
whom I received visiting-invitations.
Music and the opera were among the topics on which they conversed. I
was found to be an amateur; and Lady Bray was one of the dilettanti,
had concerts at her own house, and a box at the opera: to both of
which she said I should at all times have free admission.
This was too pleasing an offer to be refused; and I willingly agreed
to attend her ladyship the following evening, and hear the charming
music of _I Zingari in Fiera_ by Paisiello.
The opera season began rather early that year, many families were not
yet come to town, we had little delay from the string of coaches, and,
had her ladyship not provided against the misfortune by taking care to
go more late than usual, we should have been so unfashionable as to
have heard the first act. As it was, we arrived before it was over.
The thing on which her ladyship bestowed her immediate attention was
to examine, by the aid of her opera-glass, which of the subscribers
were in their boxes; and how many of her particular friends were
among them. Politeness induced me to accompany her in this excursion
of the eye: for not to have listened to the names, titles, and ages,
of her friends, with the births, deaths, marriages, creations, and
presentations at court of them and their families, of which materials
small talk is chiefly if not wholly composed, would have been the very
highest defect in good breeding.
Why yes. Listen I did, as long as I was able: till my eyes, tongue,
and faculties were all riveted to one spot!
Her ladyship's box was near the centre. She had carried my eye from
box to box completely along one side, and had proceeded to about three
of the opposite, when she directed her glass to one, with the owners
of which she had no acquaintance: but she knew the names of all; for
she had them engraved on her fan.
That name was Mowbray! And the persons in it were Hector, his aunt,
I was silent, gazing, entranced! Her ladyship had talked I know not
how long; and I had neither answered nor heard one word.
'Bless me,' said she, 'Mr. Trevor! why you are _absolutely_ in a
revery all of a sudden! That Miss Mowbray I find is a very dangerous
young lady: for I am told that all the men are _positively_ mad after
her; and here are you _absolutely_ struck speechless! What! Not a word
'I beg ten thousand pardons.'
'Why this seems like love at first sight! You are not acquainted, I
suppose, with the Mowbrays.'
'Yes, my lady: from my infancy.'
'Oh, oh! Why, then to be sure you are intimate with this beauty; who
_absolutely_ eclipses us all. I assure you she is _positively_ the
belle of the day. I hear she has the very first offers. But you are
not silly enough to act the dying swain? What, no answer? Well, well:
I see how it is! But, as we never read in any of the morning papers
of gentle youths who break their hearts for love, in the present
ungallant age, you are in no great danger. Though I think I never saw
any creature look more like what I should suppose one of your true
lovers to be than you did just now: for, beside your speechless
attitude, which was _absolutely_ picturesque and significant, you were
_positively_ pale and red, and red and pale, almost as fast as the
ticking of my watch. And even yet you are _absolutely_ provoking. I
cannot get a word from you!'
'Your ladyship's raillery quite overpowers me.'
'I declare I am _positively_ surprised at what I have seen. Had a
stranger been all of a sudden struck, the wonder would not have been
_absolutely_ so great: but it is _positively_ unaccountable in you who
are a familiar acquaintance of the family.'
'I cannot boast of that honor.'
'No, indeed! Why, do not you visit the Mowbrays?'
'I do not.'
'What, you are a dangerous man; and are forbidden the house? Well, I
declare, I shall _absolutely_ know your whole history in five minutes
without your having _positively_ told me a word.'
'Your ladyship has a lively imagination.'
'I have heard that the aunt is a very cautious _chaperon_. But, I
tell you what: I will be your friend. The Mowbrays are lately become
intimate with two families where I visit. And I will _absolutely_ take
you with me, on one of their public nights. I will _positively_.'
This proposition was so grateful, and my thanks were so much more
prompt than my recollection, that her ladyship was quite confirmed
in her surmises; and not a little pleased with her own talent at
Her accusation however was very true. All she could _positively_ say
could not _absolutely_ draw my attention from the box of Olivia, whose
turns and motions I was anxiously watching; hoping that some lucky
accident would guide her eye toward me.
Nay I partly hoped and partly feared the same of the aunt: my emotions
being now influenced by the respectable station which I at present
seemed to occupy; and now by the remembrance that even this might turn
to my disadvantage, in the jealous apprehensions of the old lady.
Busied as my thoughts were and absorbed in anxious attention, this
anxiety was soon overcome by a much more powerful feeling.
A gentleman entered Olivia's box! My eyes were instantly turned on
him. Recollection was roused. My heart beat. It surely was he! I could
not be mistaken! My opera-glass was applied, and my fears confirmed.
It was, indeed, the Earl of Idford.
Here then, in a moment, the enigma was solved. The peer who had
aspired to the hand of Olivia, and who tempted her with all his
opulence and all his dignity, could be no other than Lord Idford. He
had long been intimate with Hector, and now comes without ceremony and
joins the family. See how the aunt smiles on him! Nay, mark! Olivia
is attentive to him! Her lips move! Her eyes are directed to his! She
is conversing with him, and at her ease, while I am racked by all the
terrors that jealousy can raise! What, can she not cast one look this
way? Is she fascinated by a reptile? Is there no instinctive sympathy,
that should make her tremble to betray the dearest interests of love
in the very presence of the lover! Does she act complacency, and sit
calm and unruffled! Has she no foreboding that I will dart upon that
insect; that thing; which, being less than man, presumes because it
is called Lord! Thinks she that I will not crush, tear, tread, him to
dust? He, the defrauder of my fair fame, who plundered me of the first
fruits of genius by infamous falsehood, who joined in plotting my
destruction by arts which the basest cowards blush at! Is he the fiend
that comes to snatch me from bliss; and plunge me into pangs and
From these ravings of the mind I was a little recovered, by the very
serious alarm which the wild changes of my countenance produced in
Lady Bray. I apologised, pleaded indisposition, but presently was
lost again in revery. Fortunately, a gentleman of her ladyship's
acquaintance came into the box, and left me to continue my embittered
Olivia was now attentive to the music; and the lord had only her aunt
and Hector, apparently, to bestow his conversation upon.
This was some relief; and so far allayed the fever of my mind as to
call me back to self examination, and to question my own conduct.
For the earl I could not but have the most rooted contempt. I could
not compare myself with him, and entertain a doubt, concerning who
ought to be preferred.
But what reason had I to accuse Olivia? What did these angry emotions
of my soul forebode? Perhaps that my habitual irritability, were she
mine, would make her miserable!
What was the end of existence? Happiness. Had I not a right then to be
happy? Yes. But so had she. So had her aunt. Nay so had that rival,
odious and despicable as he was, whose appearance had raised this
tempest in my soul.
But was constraint, was force, justifiable in this aunt; or in this
insignificant, this selfish lord?
Force it is said is the law of nature; and it is that law which impels
the ravenous tiger to spring upon the lamb, and suck its blood, to
appease his craving appetite. But, if so, if self-gratification were
a defensible motive, the detestable Norman robber, the monster who
inhabited a cave and seized on every stray virgin, to deflower, murder
her and prey on her remains, was justifiable.
In the agitated mind, dreams like these are endless. While they were
passing, I stared with fixed attention toward Olivia; and, had she not
been almost motionless, my passive trances could not have continued.
The first dance was over, the second act had begun, more visitors came
to pay their respects to Lady Bray, and I endeavoured to recollect
myself and shake off a behaviour that might well be construed
inattention, if not ill manners; and might injure me even in that
point on which I was then so deeply intent. I uttered two or three
sentences; and her ladyship complimented me on being once more awake.
The persevering attention of Olivia to the scene, for it was
impossible to forbear glancing at her every moment, contributed to
calm my fears.
It did more: it was a most beneficial lesson to me. It called me
again to the consideration of that impetuosity of temper which was so
dangerous in me. Into what acts of frenzy and desperation might not
these fevers of the soul hurry me? What in the present instance could
I urge to justify such excess? Had I not heard the reproaches of her
aunt for her having refused the hand of this Lord: if this Lord it
should happen to be? When he entered the box, what had she done, that
should excite such frantic ecstacies in me? What, except return those
civilities without which it is impossible for man or woman to be
amiable? Did she now coquet, prattle, and display her power; tempted
as she was by such a public scene of triumph? Was not her demeanour as
chastely cautious as my own exigent heart could desire?
Every question that the facts before me suggested was an aggravating
reproof of my headlong passions; and, luckily for me, my thoughts took
that train which was most corrective and healthful. They led me too
to dwell, with a melting and mild rapture, on the endearing virtues
of Olivia: dignified, yet not austere; firm, yet not repulsive;
circumspect, yet capable of all those flowing affections without which
circumspection is but meanness.
Nor were these visionary attributes: such as the disordered
imagination of a lover falsely bestows. They were as real as those
personal beauties by which they were embellished.
To aspire to the possession of a woman so gifted, and to be the
lunatic which my own reproaches at this moment pictured me, was to
demand that which I did not deserve. To be worthy of her, it was fit I
should resemble her.
I endeavoured to obey these admonitions. I schooled myself, concerning
my remissness to Lady Bray. I recovered my temper, became attentive,
talked rather pleasantly, and re-established myself in her good
graces: in which I could perceive I had somewhat declined, by the
folly of my behaviour. To remind the reader on every occasion of the
progress of intellect, and the benefits derived from experience, would
be to weary his patience, insult his understanding, and counteract
my own intentions. It would suppose in him a total absence of
observation, and reasoning. Yet to be entirely silent might lead the
young, and the inattentive, to imagine I had in the beginning proposed
a mode of instruction which, as I proceeded, I had either forgotten,
abandoned, or had not the power to execute. If such will attend to the
alteration in my conduct, they will perceive that I, like every other
human being, could not but reflect more or less on the motives that
actuated me; and profit by the lessons I received: though rooted
habits and violent passions were the most difficult to cure.
After the curtain dropped, I accompanied Lady Bray into the great
room; and perceived among the throng, at some little distance, Olivia,
and her aunt, attended by the peer.
I had foreseen the possibility of this; and had reasoned that there
might be more danger in an abrupt rencontre, of this kind, than in
meeting Olivia and her terrible aunt at the house of Lady Bray's
friend, as her ladyship had promised me; where I should receive her
countenance, and that of the family to which I should be introduced.
I therefore endeavoured to direct her ladyship's attention from the
place where the Mowbray party was, and succeeded in my endeavours.
Soon afterward, I saw Hector, with a knot of fashionable youths;
among whom I was rather surprised to discover my at that time unknown
I had no inclination to be noticed by this groupe; and, as Lady Bray's
carriage was presently afterward _stopping the way_, I had the good
fortune to escape unperceived, or at least unaccosted, by both
_A debt discharged: A tavern dinner and a dissertation: The man of the
world ridiculing the man of virtue: or, is honesty the best policy?
Fools pay for being flattered: Security essential to happiness: A
triumphant retort, and difficult to be answered: Vice inevitable,
under a vitiated system: A dangerous attack: or an exhibition of one
of the principal arts of a gambler: A few cant phrases_
To the friendship of Mr. Evelyn I had so far subjected myself and the
spirit of independence which I was very properly ambitious to cherish
as, for the present, to accept the aid he was so desirous to bestow.
I was something like compelled to be his debtor, but was unwilling to
be the debtor of any other man on earth; and, as he had enabled me to
appear in the style I have described, and furnished me with money, I
was determined to seek out Belmont, and discharge the debt which his
bounty had conferred; after he had previously plundered me, at Bath.
He had sunk in my esteem: I now considered him as a professed gambler:
but I remembered this action as that which it really was; an effort of
benevolence, to aid a human being in distress.
Thus actuated, I went the next day to the billiard-table which he had
been accustomed to frequent; where I once more found him at play. He
met me not only unabashed, but with something like cordiality. He had
so accustomed himself to his own hypothesis, that 'self-gratification
is the law of nature,' and had so confused a sense of what true
self-gratification is, with such an active faculty of perverting facts
and exhibiting pictures of general turpitude, that he had very little
sense of the vice of his own conduct; and was therefore very little
subject to self-reproof. He behaved to me with the utmost ease and
good humour; and, when his match was over, proposed that we should
dine together at the Thatched-house.
For a moment, I questioned the propriety of assenting: but, seeing him
now as before familiar with the officers of the guards, and people of
whose company no one was ashamed, and recollecting where and how I had
seen him the evening before, I did not long hesitate. Beside which, I
was prompted, not only by the pleasure which his conversation gave,
but by an increase of curiosity to be better acquainted with who and
what he really was.
As soon as we were alone, I discharged my conscience by repaying him
the twenty pounds. This gave occasion to the following dialogue.
'I perceive, Trevor, you are still the same. You pique yourself on
paying your borrowings. Had it been a debt of honour indeed, I should
not have been surprised: for those are debts that must be discharged.
Otherwise, it would introduce a very inconvenient practice indeed.'
'I believe, as you say, it would be inconvenient beyond description
to you--What do you call yourselves?--Oh! I recollect: "sporting
gentlemen" is the phrase. It would be inconvenient I say, to you
'Whom, when we sporting gentlemen are absent, you call blacklegs,
rooks, Grecians, and other pleasant epithets. Some such word, I could
perceive, was quivering on your tongue. You remember the plucking
you had at Bath; and, though you are too much ashamed of having been
duped to mention it, yet it remains on your mind with a feeling of
resentment. That is natural: but it is foolish.'
'Is it foolish to have a sense of right and wrong?'
'Where is that sense to be found? Who has it? I have continually a
sense, if so you please to call it, that there is something which I
want; and by that I am impelled to act.'
'True. But Locke, I think, tells us that crime consists in not taking
sufficient time to consider, before we act.'
'And, begging his pardon, wise as in a certain sense I allow you this
Locke was, in the instance you have cited, he was an ass. If I do
not mistake, he has before proved to me that I cannot act without a
motive; and then he bids me stop when I am in such a hurry that no
motive occurs to my memory.'
'According to this, an actual murderer is not a more guilty man than
he who only dreams that he commits murder?'
'Make what you will of the inference, but it is accurate. They are
both dead asleep, to any ideas except those that hurry them forward.'
'That is, in plain English, there is no such thing as vice.'
'Might you not as well have said as virtue?'
'Speaking absolutely, I do not pretend to deny what you assert. But
you will not tell me that the man who robs me, and leaves me bound to
a tree in danger of starving, has not done me an injury?'
'Will you be kind enough to shew me who it is, among those who have
any thing to lose, that does not rob? Men who enjoy the pleasures of
life rob those who are deprived of them of their due; and, according
to my apprehension, the latter have a right to make reprisals.'
'Upon my soul, Belmont, you have a most inveterate habit of
confounding every thing that should guide and regulate mankind.
You shift the question, confound terms, and are the most desperate
gladiator of vice I ever encountered. Your dangerous genius is a mine;
where the ore is rich indeed, but the poisonous vapour that envelopes
'Each to his system. We have both the voyage of life to make. You
place that very sober and discreet person called Honesty at the helm;
by the single direction of whom you expect to attain happiness: which
is just as rational as to hope to circumnavigate the globe with one
wind. I take a different course: it is my maxim to shift my sails, and
steer as pleasure and interest bid.'
'Acting as you do, I cannot wonder that you should make a jest of
'Upon my honour I treated Sir Honesty with every possible decorum,
till I found that the insidious rascal was making a jest of me. Not
that I am quite certain I am not more truly the friend of this very
respectable person than those who pretend they are always in his
company; for I neither cant with Madam Morality nor pray with Dame
Methodism: though I cannot but think I am almost as religious, as
moral, ay and as charitable too, as your devotees and sabbath-keepers;
who go to church to pray and be saved, and leave their servants to
stay at home, roast the meat and be damned.'
'I must again repeat, you have the most active fertility at embroiling
all order and system I have any where met with.'
'Ha, ha, ha! Order and system are very pretty words. But you make a
small mistake. It is not I that embroil. I find confusion already
established; and, since I cannot correct it, give me a reason why I
ought not to profit by the chaotic hubbub?'
'But I say you can correct it. You are one of the men who might have
been best fitted for the task.'
'I know not what I might have been: but I feel that I am not. The
first right of man, ay and, to talk in your own idiom, the first moral
duty too, is to be happy; and he is an idiot that, having a banquet
spread before him, forbears to taste because he himself is not the
purveyor. What matters it to me how it came there? Why am I to be
excluded? Have I not as exquisite a relish as he that provided for the
bill of fare?
'Let dull fools puzzle their brain concerning moral fitness, which
they have not elevation enough of mind to understand; give me
'Let me eat the pine apple while they are discussing the moral fitness
of feasting on such luxuries.'
'This doctrine would subject the world to your appetites and
'And is not that a noble doctrine? It is the wish and passion of the
world to be gulled; and gulled let it be. Let it have its enjoyments;
give me mine.
'One man is my banker, and is assiduously careful to keep cash at
my command; which he transfers to me in the most gentleman-like and
honourable manner imaginable: namely, by a box and dice.
'Another is my steward; and he lays out my grounds, stocks my park
with deer, builds me palaces, erects me hot-houses, and torments
heaven and earth to furnish my table with delicacies; for all of
which I pay him in the current coin of flattery. It is true I permit
him to call these things his own: but the real enjoyment of them is
notoriously mine. He, poor egotist, talks bombast and nonsense by
wholesale. I applaud and smile at his folly; while he imagines it is
at his wit. The poor man is amused with fine speeches, unsubstantial
flatteries, cringes, bows, and hypocritical tokens of servility; which
are so many jests upon him.
'Thus is he mocked with the shadow, while I banquet upon the
substance. I bask in arbours and groves, without once having given
myself a thought concerning planting or pruning. I feast on the fish,
without so much as the trouble of catching them; and still less of
constructing the pond. By the provision he makes, that is, by avarice
and extortion, he nurtures a brood of sycophants and slaves. Wife,
children, friends, servants, all have the same character, only
differently shaded: except that, if any of them can become his tyrants
and tormentors, they all are ready for the task. I have studied the
noble arts both of tickling and tormenting: by which I have subjected
this very self-important race to my will and pleasure.'
'For a man whose acuteness has carried him so very far, I am amazed
that it did not impel him to advance one step farther. Happiness is
what I and all men desire, as certainly as you do: but that happiness
is of a strange kind, and held by a frail and feeble tenure, that is
agitated by innumerable fears: that, if the means on which it depends
be detected, is wholly destroyed; and that, when lost, finds infamy
and misery its certain substitutes.
'Mark what I say; and mark it deeply. There can be no happiness
without security; and there can be no security without sincerity.
Therefore, hypocrites, of every class, are acting contrary to their
own intentions. They are providing misery for themselves, as well as
for others: instead of the substantial pleasures of which they are in
'Indeed? The Lord have mercy then upon all establishments: legal,
political, and ecclesiastic!'
'Let me farther observe to you that the system of general enjoyment,
which you propose, is something, if I may so call it, more than
rational: it is dignified; it is sublime. I feel with you that he is
a poor circumscribed egotist, who can enjoy nothing but that which he
calls his own. Let me taste every blessing which the hand of nature
presents: let me banquet with you on her bounties: but let me not
embitter the delicious repast by fraud, that enslaves me to an eternal
watchfulness; depredation, that puts even my life in jeopardy; and a
system founded in lies, and everlastingly haunted by the spectres of
Our dialogue was interrupted, by the entrance of the waiters.
When we had dined, Belmont began to enquire concerning my prospects
'I expect,' said he, 'you will be less communicative and open hearted,
now, than you formerly were. You have discovered, what I never
attempted to conceal, that my present dependence is on the exercise of
talents which your gravity despises: especially since they have laid
you under contribution. This misfortune however, had you possessed
them, despicable as they are, you would have escaped.'
'Yes: just as the man, who hanged himself last night, escaped a
head-ache this morning. I will own to you I cannot take the pleasure
in your company, or think of you with that friendship, which I
formerly felt: for, though I find your conversation no less animating,
like strong liquors, it leaves an unwholesome heat behind.
'However, I have no objection to inform you that fortune has given me
a momentary respite from persecution. How soon she may think proper
to stretch me on the rack again is more than I can foresee: though I
greatly suspect her of cruelty and caprice. She seems at present to be
in one of her best humours; and has given me a kind of promise to make
me one of the sage legislators of this happy land.'
'What do you mean?'
'That I shall be a member of the new parliament.'
Belmont burst into a violent fit of laughter. At first, I was at a
loss to conjecture why; and especially why it should be so long, and
so unaffected: but I soon learned it was a burst of triumph, which he
could not restrain.
'I congratulate you, Mr. Trevor,' said he, with a momentary gravity,
'on your noble and moral pursuits!--The lecture you have been reading,
as well as those I have formerly heard you read, now come upon me with
invincible force!--There is no resisting precept thus exemplified
by practice!--How loud, how lofty, how sovereign, is the contempt
in which you hold hypocrisy!--How severe will the laws be that you
will enact, against petty depredators!--I foresee you will hang,
not only those that handle a card, or a dice-box, but, those that
make them.--Then what honours, what rewards, what triumphs, will
you decree to your own wholesale marauders! your great captains;
chosen, empowered and paid by yourself and sages no less moral and
disinterested!--With what gusto will you send him to swing who commits
a single robbery: and with what sublime oratory will you exalt the
prowess of the man who has plundered, starved, and exterminated
nations--"A Daniel come to judgment! Oh wise young judge, how do I
I remained speechless, a few moments; and entirely disconcerted. I was
irritated; though I knew not precisely at what. I attempted to answer;
but was so confused that I talked absolute nonsense.
After some time, however, I recollected that my purpose in going into
parliament was to counteract all these abuses. I then recovered my
faculties, and urged this plea very emphatically.
Still the moral dignity, and virtue, of the honourable house I was
about to enter, dwelt with such force on the imagination of Belmont
that I could get no reply from him: except sarcasms, such as those
I have repeated, with the same intervening fits of laughter as the
images suggested themselves to his mind.
And here, lest the reader himself should be misled like Belmont, I
must remark that no mistake is more common, and I believe none more
pernicious, than that of imagining that, because man has not attained
absolute and perfect virtue, the very existence of virtue is doubtful.
Hence it happens that he, who in any manner participates in the vices
of a nation, or a body of men, is reproached as if loaded with the
Hence likewise, because men without exception are more or less tainted
with error, all pretensions to superior moral principles are laughed
at, as false and ridiculous.
This is the doctrine at least which the people who most offend these
principles are the most zealous in propagating. Belmont had no refuge
against self-reproach, but in cherishing such trains of thought.
That the vices which are the most despised in society instead of being
the most despicable are virtues, if compared to actions that find
honor and reward, is a truth too glaring to be denied. That the cant
with which these master crimes are glossed over, and painted as just,
expedient, ay and heroic actions, that this diabolical cant should
be and is adopted by men even of the highest powers, is a fact that
astonishes and confounds. It impels us continually to ask--Are they
cowards? Are they hypocrites? Or is the world inhabited by none but
lunatics? And that men even of such uncommon genius as Belmont should
be entangled, and bewildered, by the destructive incongruity of those
who assume to themselves the highest wisdom, because they possess the
highest stations in society, is a proof how incumbent it is on such
as are convinced of these melancholy truths to declare them openly,
undauntedly, and with a perseverance that no threats or terrors can
When we had taken as much wine as Belmont could prevail on me to
drink, and he was very urgent, he asked if I played Piquet?
I answered in the affirmative.
'You no doubt then play it well.'
'I do not think it a game of much difficulty.'
'It is my opinion I am your master at it.'
'That may be.'
'Though you do not think it is. Will you try?'
'What, with a man who avows he does not scruple to take every
'Have you not eyes? Are you, a metaphysician, a wit, and a senator, so
'A man may lose his temper; and with it his caution.'
'So you think yourself able to instruct the world, but not to keep
your mind calm and circumspect for half an hour?'
'Had I a sufficient motive, I should suppose I have strength enough
for such an exertion.'
'Then try. The exercise will be wholesome. Shew your skill and
acuteness. Here is your twenty-pound bill: win and take it; or own
that you have no confidence in yourself.'
'I have that confidence which assures me I shall, one day or other,
convince you that I understand the road to happiness better than
'Yet you are cursedly afraid of me. You scarcely can sit still. You
blame your own rashness, in venturing to spend the afternoon with me:
and now you would as soon handle burning coals as a pack of cards in
'And what is it you find so omnipotent in yourself, that it should
induce you to all this vapouring?'
'I tell you again, you dare not oppose your penetration to mine. You
pretend to despise me, yet own I am your master. A child is not in
more fear of the rod than you are of me.'
He saw he had sufficiently piqued me, and rang the bell for cards.
They were brought: he shuffled, cut them, and continued to banter me.
'What card do you chuse?--The knave of hearts?--There it is!' [He
shewed it, with a flirt of the cards, at the bottom of the pack.] His
brother of diamonds?--Look! You have it!--Of spades?--Presto! It is
here! You have three knaves on your side, you see. I will keep the
fourth, and drive you out of the field--Come, for twenty?'
'I see your aim, and am devilishly tempted to shew you that you are
not half so cunning as you think yourself.'
'I know you are: but you dare not. You cannot shake off your fears.
The wit, the metaphysician, the young senator suspects he is only a
'Cut for deal, sir.'
'Why, will you venture?--The nine.'
The sudden recollection of Mr. Evelyn, the money I had received from
him, the generous confidence he had reposed in me, and the guilt of
daring to abuse that confidence, fortunately seized me with a kind of
horror. I snatched up the cards, dashed them in the fire, and in a
moment recovering myself said--'You shall find, sir, that, whether I
can or cannot master you, I can master myself'
'Come, you do not go out of this room without the _chance_ of losing
twenty guineas for twenty.'
'Done!' answered I, impetuously: which he in an instant echoed with
Done! Done! and, again bursting into laughter, held out his hand and
bade me pay my losings.
I immediately discovered, without his explanation, that he had
entrapped me, by the equivocal sense of the word _chance_; and I drew
out my purse to pay him, with a strong feeling of indignation that I
should be so caught.
However, as it was not his intention to profit by so bald and
barefaced a quirk, he only laughed; and exclaimed--'How much the young
gentleman is his own master! But I will not pick your pocket. If at
any time I should want twenty pounds, I shall have a fair claim to ask
it as a loan.'
'Would you but really act like a man of honour, there would be no need
of such an artifice.'
'Perhaps not, for the first time. But if my poor honor were starving,
and could not repay its borrowings, I am afraid my honor would
irrevocably be lost. I therefore prefer, since in either case lose it
I must, to lose it and eat. But the birds are now beginning to flock
together; and I must begone, to the pigeon-house: the rookery.'
'I do not understand the terms.'
'The plucking office: the crab and nick nest: the pip and bone quarry:
the rafflearium: the trumpery: the blaspheming box: the elbow shaking
shop: the wholesale ague and fever warehouse.'
'In plain English, to an assembly of gamblers.'
'Where I shall meet with much the same degree of honesty, virtue,
wisdom, and all that, as is to be found in certain other assemblies.'
_Bad company painful, as well as dangerous: A short note, exciting
much expectation: A question that shocks and surprises: Clarke and
Olivia, or the overflowing of a full and friendly heart: Various
mistakes rectified: The reading of the letter and the emotions it
produces: Resolutions worthy of virtuous love_
I left the tavern in no very pleasant temper of mind: impatient that I
should be unable to convince, and reform, a man of such extraordinary
acuteness as Belmont: vexed that he, on the contrary, should persuade
himself that he was my master; and should actually irritate me to a
dangerous excess of vanity: and disgusted that vice and virtue should
be so confused, in the minds of men, as to render their boundaries
Such I mean was the impression that Belmont had left upon my mind,
by repeating the stale but dangerous maxim that--men are vicious by
nature; and, therefore, that to profit by their vices is no more than
When I arrived at my lodgings, which were now in Albemarle-street, for
I had changed them, I found the following note from Miss Wilmot.
'Come to me immediately. I have something to tell you which you little
Belmont and my chagrin were forgotten in an instant; and away I
hurried, brim full of agitation, conjecture, and impatience.
I found Miss Wilmot alone; and her first words were--'Oh, Mr. Trevor!
you are a happy man!'
I stood panting, or rather gasping, with hope; and made no reply. She
'Miss Mowbray has been here.'
'She has acted like herself. I know not how I shall tell you the
story, so as to do her justice.'
'For the love of God, proceed!'
'As nearly as I can recollect her words, she began in this manner.
'"I cannot tell, my dear friend," addressing herself to me, "what you
will think of my conduct. At one moment I suspect it to be wrong; and
at the next blame myself for not having taken my present step sooner.
I have surely been grossly misled. This indeed I have long suspected;
and it cannot but be my duty to enquire. Have you lately seen Mr.
'"I never fail to see him every day. I have a letter from him, for
you; which he has disdained to take any clandestine means of conveying
to you. Here it is."
'"Before I date think about his letter, answer me one question. Is he
'"A murderer! In the name of God! what can induce you to make such an
'"I have been assured that he has caused the death of two men: one of
whom he killed himself."
'"Where? When? How?"
'"At Bath. By delivering one over to the fury of the mob; and by
afterward provoking, insulting, and fighting with the other."
'"Heavens and earth! It is false! wickedly false!"
'"Nay but do you know his story?"
'"Perfectly. I have heard it, not only from himself, but, from the man
whom I suppose you have been told he has murdered."
'"Nay you shall hear and see. You shall have the whole history from
the person's own mouth."
'"Is he alive? Is he in London?"
'"I will send for him. He will be here in a few minutes. You will then
hear what this man has to say. He almost adores Mr. Trevor."
'I immediately dispatched Mary for Mr. Clarke, who works not far off,
as I suppose you know, and who came running the moment he heard that
the lady you are in love with enquired for him.
'Mary informs me that his heart leaped to his eyes (it was her own
phrase) when he was told she wanted to question him concerning you;
that he sprang up, clapped his hands, and exclaimed--"I am glad of it!
I am glad of it! The time is come! All shall be known! He shall be
righted! I will take care of that! He shall be righted!"
'He entered the room breathless; and, the moment he saw Miss Mowbray,
he could not forbear to gaze at her: though bashfulness made him
continually turn his eyes away.
'She addressed him, with that mildness of manner which is so winning
in her, and said--"I have taken the liberty, sir, to send for you; to
ask a few questions."
'He replied, with a burst of zeal--"I am glad of it, madam! I am glad
of it, from my heart and soul! I wish you knew all I could tell you
about Mr. Trevor: but it is quite _un_possible that I should remember
it one half. Only this I will say, and dare the best man in England to
deny it, there is not such another brave and kind-hearted gentleman
walks the earth. I have had proof enough of it. He knows, for all he
is a gentleman, ay and a true gentleman too, for he has parts, and
learning, and a Christian soul, which does not teach him to scorn and
make a scoff of the poor: he knows that a man is a man; even though he
should only happen to be a poor carpenter, like myself. God in heaven
bless him! say I."
'The enthusiasm of your generous humble friend overpowered Miss
Mowbray; she burst into tears, and hid her face. Her passion was
catching, and I followed her example. Clarke continued.
'"On that night that he had the good hap to save your life, and the
life of that old cankered lady, which as I find from all that passed
she must be, though he talks of her too kindly by half, why the
stopping of the frightened horses, just do you see in the jaws of
destruction, and propping the coach was all his doing. He knew better
what he was about than the coachman himself. And then, if you had seen
him, as I did, after all was over! I thought I had loved my Sally
dearly. And so I do! But what am I? I thought too I durst have stood
up to the boldest man that ever stood on shoe leather! And perhaps I
durst: but I find I am nothing in any case to _he_. For which he never
despises me: but insists upon it that I am as good a man as he, in any
way. And as for you, madam, he would jump into burning lakes rather
than a hair of your head should be singed. I know it: for I have seen
'"I know it too," said Miss Mowbray; sobbing. Then, with an effort to
quell her passion, she asked in a firmer tone: "Pray, sir, tell me:
did not you work at Bath?"
'"Yes, madam: the greatest part of my life."
'"You appear to know of a battle, that Mr. Trevor fought?"
'"Yes, yes, madam. I know it pretty well. I shall remember it as long
as I live, for more reasons than one."
'"Was there a man killed?"
'"No, madam: God be praised! I should have died in my sins, unprepared
and wicked as I was: being possessed with passion. He, God bless him!
for all he is a gentleman, begged my pardon like a man; and held out
his hand, and prayed over and over that I would forget and forgive.
But, as I tell you, I was possessed. I could be nothing else: because,
in the way of hard fighting, I despised a gentleman. But he gave me to
know better, as obstinate as I was: for, even after he had beaten me
once, why, he begged and prayed, as he had done at first, to make it
all up. But, as I said before, the Evil One had taken hold of me; and
I refused to give in, till I was carried as dead as a stock off of the
'"Then it was you that was reported to have been killed?"
'"Why, yes, madam: because it could be nobody else."
'"Nay, but was not there a poor man ducked to death?"
'"No: God be thanked, once again! It was not quite so bad as that.
Though the hot-headed fools and rabble, that got hold of me, did use
me ill enough, I must say: for which I was so angry with Mr. Trevor;
and it was therefore that Old Nick put it into my head that I would
beat him. For I cannot deny but the ducking did dwell upon my memory."
'"Were you then the same person that was so ill treated at Lansdown
'"Yes, madam: for which, though I used to be angry enough before time
at pick-pockets, I will take special care never to have a hand in
ducking any body, as long as I live."
'"And is there no truth whatever in the story that two men were
killed, by the ungovernable passion and malice of Mr. Trevor?"
'"Killed by Mr. Trevor, madam! No, no! He is not that sort of man.
He would rather be killed himself than be the death of any Christian
soul: 'specially if he was a poor body. I can say that for him. Why
he fought like a mad man, to save me from the mob; when they were
hustling me, and dragging me along. But, while one part of them
gathered round him, the other had got far enough off with me. It being
all a mistake about a handkerchief: which he told them. And, though I
heard him and saw him beat about just as if he had been a lion to save
me, I could not forget how I had been used, when I met him the next
day. But I hope God will forgive me! which I do believe he will, for
Mr. Trevor has shewn him the example. I beg pardon! God forgive me!
I only mean that, though Mr. Trevor is a good gentleman, the Lord of
heaven must be a better; and even more charitable and melting in his
heart. Which, to be sure, is very strange: because I do not altogether
understand how it can be."
'"Then it seems your brother is still living?"
'"Brother, madam? I never had any brother! nor any thing of that kind:
except my wife's sisters, _which_ I love because I love _she_."
'"What strange tales I have been told!"
'"That I dare be sworn you have, madam, from what I have heard.
Because there was the sham-Abraham friends of Mr. Trevor: one of
_which_ kicked him, when he was down!"
'"Is it possible?"
'"It is as true as God is in heaven, madam!"
'"Do you know his name?"
'"He was as tall as a Maypole. And then after he had done this
cowardly trick, why he durst not stand up to Mr. Trevor, like a man.
And so, madam, finding as you have been told a parcel of trumpery
tales, I hope in God you will be kind enough not to believe one of
them; now that you see they are all false. For if there be a gentleman
on the face of the earth that loves a lady to desperation, why, Mr.
Trevor is he; as you would have been satisfied, if you had _set_ by
his bedside when as he was down in the fever; like as I and my Sally
did; and had heard him rave of nobody but you. And then if you had
seen him too the night after he took you out of the coach! and then
went on to Hounslow. Which, as he said, seeing it was parting with
you, was worse than tearing his heart out of his body! But he was so
afraid of doing you harm! and of setting that cross old lady to scold
you! For he would suffer death rather than anger you. So that, while
I have breath to draw, I shall never forget, when we came to the inn,
how he looked! and stood quite lost and changing colour! and while his
face was as set as stone, the tears kept trickling down his cheeks!
At which I was put into a panic: for I did not at that time know what
it was about, nor who we had been in company with. Which was the more
surprising, when I came to hear! For which, as he knows you to be so
good a lady, I am sure you must see all these particulars just in the
'Miss Mowbray had heard sufficient. Her heart was bursting. It was
with difficulty she could check her feelings, and she made no reply.
Your unassuming but intelligent friend understood her silence as an
intimation to him to withdraw. Zealous as you hear he was in your
behalf, this thought put an end to his loquacity. But, as he was
retiring, Miss Mowbray drew out her purse, and said to him--"Let me
beg you, sir, to accept this; as a recompense, for--for having aided
in saving the lives of me and my aunt."
'As she stretched out her hand, he looked up at her, as long as he
durst; and then, turning his eyes away, said--"Why, as for money,
madam, I thank you as much as if I had it: but, if I was to take it,
what would that seem? but as if I had been telling a tale only to
please you: when I declare, in the face of my Maker, it is every word
truth! And a great deal more! And as for saving your lives, I was as
willing I own as another: but I was not half so quick in thought as
Mr. Trevor. Because, as the coachman said, if he had not catched hold
of the horses in that very instant nick of the moment, it would have
been all over! So I hope, madam, you will not take it amiss that I am
not one of the sort _which_ tell tales to gain their own ends."
'Here he instantly left the room: by which he intended to shew that he
'Clarke was no sooner gone than Miss Mowbray burst into the most
passionate, and I really believe the most rapturous, flood of tears
that the heart of woman ever shed! And how melting, how overflowing
with affection, the heart of woman is, Mr. Trevor, I think you know.
'Good God! How pure, how expressive, how beaming, was the pleasure
in her eyes! though she sobbed so violently that she had lost all
utterance. How did she press my hand, gaze at me, then bury her
face in my bosom, and struggle with the pleasure that was becoming
dangerous in its excess!
'After some time, her thoughts took another turn. She instantly
recovered the use of speech and exclaimed--"Oh, my friend! I almost
hate myself, for the injustice which I, as well as others, have done
Mr. Trevor--I, who had heard from his lips a thousand sentiments that
ought to have assured me of the generous and elevated virtues by
which his actions were directed! He has twice saved my life; and yet,
because on some occasions he has happened to act differently from what
I have supposed he ought to have acted, I have taken upon me to treat
him with coldness that was affected, with reproof when I owed him
thanks, and with rudeness such as I supposed became my sex.
'"For me he has risked his life again and again, without hesitation:
while I have sat in timid silence, and countenanced calumnies which it
was impossible I could believe; though I seem as if I had endeavoured
to believe them, from the disgrace which I knew would justly light
on me, should these calumnies prove false. False I could not but
think them, false they have proved, and I am unworthy of him. I have
presumed upon the prejudices which I knew would protect me, in the
opinions of the foolish, and gain me their applause, and have treated
him with a haughtiness which he ought to despise. Has he deserved it?
Has he been guilty of one mean or seductive art, that might induce me
to betray a duty, and gratify him at the expence of myself and others?
Has he entered into that base warfare of the sexes by which each in
turn endeavours to deceive?"
'The thought suddenly struck her, and interrupting herself she hastily
asked--"Where is the letter you mentioned? I will read it. I know I
shall read my own condemnation: but I will read it."
'I presented the letter, and replied, "Mr. Trevor instructed me to
tell you, when I delivered it, that it contains nothing which he
wishes you to conceal, should you think fit to shew it; that it does
not invite you to any improper correspondence; and that it is the only
one which, under his present circumstances, he means to obtrude upon
'Evidently overcome by the generous rectitude of your conduct, and
more dissatisfied with her own, she broke the seal and began to read.
'She hurried it once over with great eagerness, and trepidation.
She then paused; debating whether she should unburthen her mind
immediately of a crowd of thoughts: but, finding they crossed and
disturbed each other, she began again and read aloud; interrupting
herself by remarks, as she proceeded.
'"_My reproof and anger_"--Yes, yes, I have taught him to treat me
like a Sultana. He punishes me justly without intending it.
'"_You have supposed me dead_"--Here, addressing herself to me, she
added--"It was his servant, Philip, who being hired by a gentleman
that came to Scarborough brought us this false intelligence. His story
was that he saw Mr. Trevor's distraction, on the morning after he had
lost his money at a gaming-table; to which rashness as it should seem
he was driven by despair; that Mr. Trevor ran into the fields, in a
fit of frenzy, and threw himself into the Avon: that he, Philip, who
had followed as fast as he could, hastened to the place but never saw
him more; and that consequently and beyond all doubt he was there
'"Philip, according to his own account, hurried into the water,
and used every means in his power to find the body: but, not being
successful, he returned to his master's lodgings, took some trifles
that had been given him, and left Bath by the morning coach for
London; having nobody in Bath to give him a character, and being less
likely there to meet with another place."
'I informed Miss Mowbray that this was part of it true, and part
false: for that Philip had taken a ten-pound note, which more than
paid him his wages; and that the other things, which he carried away,
had not been given him.
'"Indeed!" exclaimed Miss Mowbray, "I am exceedingly sorry to hear it:
for, after his second master left Scarborough and he was hired by my
aunt to wait on me, he behaved with great diligence and honesty.
'"Yet this accounts in part for his running away: which he did that
very night after I suppose he had discovered it was Mr. Trevor, at
Cranford-bridge; and I have never seen or heard of him since.
'"I am persuaded he thought Mr. Trevor dead: for, after I had heard
my brother's account of the battle, I thought the time and the
circumstances contradictory, and repeatedly questioned Philip; who
persisted in declaring he saw Mr. Trevor jump into the river and drown
'"Philip's account was that he had himself been out on errands early
in the morning, at which time he supposed the battle must have been
fought; and, though there were many contradictory circumstances, the
positiveness with which the two tales were told led me to believe that
the chief incidents of both were true. And, as I say, the flight of
Philip from Cranford-bridge persuades me that he actually had believed
Mr. Trevor dead.
'"I am sorry the poor fellow has done this wrong thing, and been
frightened away: for I never before heard a servant speak with so much
warmth and affection of a master, as he did of Mr. Trevor."
'She then continued to read; and made many observations, which
expressed dissatisfaction with herself and were favourable to you,
till she came to where you inform her that you had begun to study the
'"By this I find," said she, "the story I have just heard is false."
'I asked, "What story is that, pray?"
'She replied, "I was last night at the opera; where I saw Mr. Trevor,
with Lady Bray. Having so lately met with him under circumstances so
different, and apparently disadvantageous, you may imagine that the
joy I felt and the hope I conceived were not trifling.
'"My aunt saw him, likewise: but, as she was not so familiar with his
person as to have no doubt, she first watched and then questioned me:
though, as she upbraidingly told me, she needed only to have enquired
of my looks.
'"I ought perhaps first to have informed you that I had thought it my
duty to use the utmost sincerity, undeceive her, and declare all that
I knew of what had passed at Cranford-bridge.
'"I performed this task on that very night, while her heart was alive
to the danger she had escaped, and when she expressed a lively regret
that the person from whom she had received such signal aid had
disappeared. Except his silence in the coach, she said every thing
bespoke him to be a gentleman: well bred, well educated, courageous,
and as active as he was bold.
'"When she was told that the gentleman, of whom she had been speaking
with so much warmth, had a peculiar motive for being silent, and that
this gentleman was no other than Mr. Trevor, she was very much moved.
The recollection of the manner in which she had been treating his
character, and of the alacrity with which he had afterward saved her
life, was exceedingly strong; and far from unmixed with pain. Before
she was aware of herself, she exclaimed, 'This Mr. Trevor is a very
extraordinary young man!'
'"Unfortunately for Mr. Trevor, our servant, Philip, had absconded;
and a train of suspicions immediately arose in her mind. It might be
a conspiracy among them; a desperate and unprincipled contrivance, to
effect a desperate and unprincipled purpose.
'"In this supposition she confirmed herself by every possible surmise:
each and all resting upon the assumed league between Philip and Mr.
'"I vainly urged that the sudden disappearing of both entirely
contradicted such a conjecture; that Mr. Trevor, if he were capable of
an action like this, must be as wicked as he was mad; and that I had
every reason to believe him a man of the most generous and elevated
principles. As you may suppose, these arguments from me only subjected
me to reproof, sarcasm, and even suspicion.
'"My aunt fortified herself in her opinion; and behaved with a more
jealous watchfulness than ever. She even terrified me with the dread
of that which I could not credit: the possibility that what she
affirmed might be true.
'"But, that I might do every thing in my power to prove that one part
of her surmises was false, I determined cautiously to avoid, for the
present, seeing or even hearing any thing concerning Mr. Trevor. And
this was my inducement for writing the note, which you received.
'"My mind however suffered a continual conflict. I debated on the
propriety of listening to the daily defamation of Mr. Trevor,
when there were so many presumptive facts in his favour, and not
endeavouring to prove that it was false; and I accused my conduct
of apparent hypocrisy: of assuming a calm unconcern which my heart
'"The sight of him at the Opera renewed my self-reproaches, in full
force; and, likewise, fortunately awakened my aunt's curiosity.
'"Accordingly, one of our morning visits, to-day, has been to a
friend of Lady Bray's; and there we learned that Mr. Trevor had been
introduced, by Sir Barnard, to his lady and their common friends; as a
young gentleman coming into parliament, and supposed to be possessed
of extraordinary talents.
'"This I find by his letter is untrue; and there still appears to be
some mystery which perhaps, as you see him so often, you may be able
'I immediately requested her to look at the date of the letter; by
which she saw it had been written several weeks: and afterward made
her acquainted with all the particulars I knew, concerning your
beginning and renouncing the study of the law, and your new political
plans: most carefully remembering to give your noble minded friend,
Mr. Evelyn, his due share of what I had to relate.
'Oh! how did her eyes swim, and her features glow, while I stated what
I had heard of his sentiments and proceedings! Yes! She has a heart! a
heart to match your own, Mr. Trevor.
'She then read the remainder of the letter; but with numerous
interruptions, all of them expressing her admiration of your conduct
by criminating her own.
'When she had ended, she spoke to me nearly as follows.
'"I am now, my dear friend, determined on the conduct I mean to
pursue. Oh! How it delights my heart that Mr. Trevor accords with me
in opinion, and advises me to that open sincerity after which I have
long been struggling, and which I am at length resolved to adopt! I
mean to inform my aunt of all that I know, as well as of all that
I intend. I will tell her where I have been, shew her this letter,
repeat every thing I have heard, and add my fixed purpose not to admit
the addresses of any man on earth; till my family shall authorise
those of Mr. Trevor. For that, or for the time when I shall be
unconditionally my own mistress, however distant it may be, I will
'"Tell Mr. Trevor that my heart is overwhelmed by the sense it
feels of his generous and noble conduct; and it exults in his manly
forbearance, which so cautiously guards my rectitude rather than
his own gratification; that I will obey his injunction, and that we
will have no clandestine correspondence; but that our souls shall
commune: they shall daily sympathise, and mutually excite us to that
perseverance in fidelity and virtue which will be their own reward,
and the consolation and joy of our lives.
'"If my aunt, my brother, or any of their acquaintance, should
again calumniate Mr. Trevor, I will forewarn them of my further
determination to inform him, and enquire into the facts. But I hope
they will neither be so unjust nor so ungenerous. At least, I think
my aunt will not; when she hears the truth, knows my resolution, and
'"Of misinterpretation from Mr. Trevor I am in no fear. Had he one
sinister design, he never could have imagined the conduct he has so
nobly pursued. But to suppose the possibility of such a thing in him
would be a most unpardonable injustice. The man who should teach me to
distrust him, as a lover, could never inspire me with admiration and
confidence, as a husband. But different indeed has been the lesson I
have learned from Mr. Trevor.
'"Oh that Mr. Evelyn! What a godlike morality has he adopted! How
rational! How full of benefit to others, and of happiness to himself!
'"But Mr. Trevor's friends are all of this uncommon stamp; and I
own that to look into futurity, and to suppose myself excluded by
prejudice and pride from the enjoyment of such society, is perhaps
the most painful idea that can afflict the mind. I am almost afraid
of owning even to you, my kind and sympathising friend, the torrent
of emotions I feel at the thought of the pure pleasures I hope
for hereafter; from a life spent with a partner like Mr. Trevor,
heightened by the intercourse of the generous, benevolent, and
strong-minded men who share his heart."'
To detail all that farther passed, between Olivia and Miss Wilmot,
with the particulars which the latter related to me, would but be
to repeat sensations and incidents that are already familiar to the
reader. And, with respect to my own feelings, those he will doubtless
have anticipated. What could they be but rapture? What could they
inspire but resolution: the power to endure, and the will to
_The study of oratory: Remarks on fashionable manners and their
consequences: A public dinner: Emotions at the meeting of quondam
acquaintance: Amenity without doors and anger within compatible: A
discovery made by the Baronet: The contending passions of surprise,
resentment, and pity: Ravages committed by vice: An awful scene, or a
warning to gluttony_
Previous to this event, I should have imagined it impossible to have
increased my affection: yet, if admiration be the basis of love, as
I am persuaded it is, my love was certainly increased. I now seemed
to be setting forward on a journey, of the length of which I was
indeed wholly ignorant; but the road was made plain, and the end was
inexpressible happiness. I should therefore travel with unwearied
But, that I might shorten this unmeasured length of way, it was
necessary I should be as active in pursuit as I was ardent in my
passion: and the stimulus was a strong one. Oratory accordingly,
Olivia excepted, became the object that seemed the dearest to my
heart. Demosthenes and Cicero were my great masters. They and their
modern competitors were my study, day and night. No means were
neglected that precept or example, as far as they came within my
knowledge, could afford: and the additional intercourse which I thus
acquired with man, his motives, actions, and heart, was a school of
the highest order.
I did not however entirely confine myself to the society of the dead:
the living likewise constituted a seminary, in which I found frequent
opportunities of gaining instruction. Impelled by curiosity and
ambition, I was not remiss in cultivating an acquaintance among those
people of fashion to whom I gained access.
But, as the tribe that bestow on themselves this titillating epithet
have a light and versatile character, as they abound in praises that
are void of discrimination, and promises that are unmeaning, and
affect at one moment the most winning urbanity, and at the next the
most supercilious arrogance, though they gave me much pleasure, they
likewise gave me exquisite pain.
The more I became acquainted with them, the more I was amazed, that
the man who had been talking to me in the evening on terms of the
utmost apparent equality, if I met him the next morning, did not know
Some of them would even gaze full in my face, as if to enquire--'Who
are you, sir?' but in reality to insult me. The looks of these most
courteous and polished people seem to say 'In the name of all that is
high-bred, how does it happen that persons of fashion do not unite to
stare every such impertinent upstart out of their company?'
Of all the insolence that disturbs society, and puts it in a state of
internal warfare, the insolence of fashion wounds and imbitters the
most. It instantly provokes the offended person to enquire--'What kind
of being is it, that takes upon him to brave, insult, and despise me?
Has he more strength, more activity, more understanding than myself?'
In numerous instances, he is imbecile in body, more imbecile still in
mind, and contemptible in person. Nay he is often little better than a
He, whom the _hauteur_ of fashion has compelled to reason thus, will
soon be led to further and more serious inferences.
Nothing can reconcile men, so as to induce them to remain peaceable
spectators of enjoyments beyond their attainment, except that
unaffected benevolence which shall continually actuate the heart to
communicate all the happiness it has the power to bestow. This only
can so temper oppression as to render gradual and orderly reform
But I am talking to the winds.
This wavering between extreme civility and rudeness was conspicuous
in the behaviour of the Bray family toward me. Her Ladyship, at one
moment, would overlook me, I being present, as if no such person had
been in existence: or as if he were not half so worthy of attention
as her lap-dog; for, as a proof, on the lap-dog it was lavished: yet,
at another, I was _absolutely_ the most charming man on earth. I had
_positively_ the most refined taste, good breeding, and all that that
she had ever known.
With Sir Barnard I was sometimes an oracle. To me his discourse was
directed, to my judgment his appeals were made, and my opinions were
decisive. In other fits he would not condescend to notice me. If I
interfered with a sentence, he would pursue the conversation as if an
objection made by me were unworthy of an answer; and perhaps, if I
asked him a question, he would affect to be deaf, and make no reply.
These are arts which render the condition of a supposed inferior
truly hateful: and, as they were severely felt, they were severely
remembered, and now and then retaliated in a spirit which I cannot
If the history of such emotions were traced through all their
consequences, and if men were aware how much the principal events of
their lives are the result of the petty ebullitions of passion, that
branch of morals which should regulate the temper of mind, tone of
voice, and expression of the countenance, would become a very serious
This remark is as old as Adam: and yet it relates to a science that is
only in its infancy.
How fatal the want of such a necessary command of temper had been to
me the reader already knows: and, though at moments I was painfully
conscious of the defect, and it was become less obtrusive, it was far
from cured. It still hovered over and influenced my fate: as will be
The old parliament was not yet dissolved: it had met, and was sitting.
But the defection of Sir Barnard's member was of late date; and, as
the Baronet had his motives for not wishing to provoke the honorable
member whom he had made too violently, there was a kind of compromise;
and the apostate was suffered to keep his seat, during the short
remainder of the term.
Sir Barnard however, as I have said, delighted in his prop. It was as
necessary to him as his cane; and I generally accompanied him, when he
visited any kind of political assemblies.
It happened that there was an annual dinner of the gentlemen who had
been educated at *******; of which dinner Sir Barnard was appointed
one of the stewards. That he might acquit himself of this arduous task
with eclat, I was of course presented with a ticket; and attended as
his aid de camp.
The company was numerous, and the stewards and the chairman met
something more early than the rest, to regulate the important business
of the day.
When I entered the committee room, with the Baronet, the first person
that caught my eye was the Earl of Idford.
I shrunk back. I had a momentary hesitation whether I should insult
him or instantly quit the company; and disdain to enter an apartment
polluted by his presence.
I had however just good sense enough to recollect that a quarrel, in
such a place, nobody knew why, would be equally ridiculous and rash:
and that to avoid any man was cowardly.
The thought awakened me; and, collecting myself, I advanced with a
firm and cool air.
Habit and perversity of system had done that for his lordship to
which his fortitude was inadequate. He was at least as cool, and
as intrepid, as myself; and bowed to me with the utmost ease and
civility. To return his bow was infinitely more repulsive than taking
a toad in my hand: yet to forbear would have been a violation of
the first principles of the behaviour of a gentleman. I therefore
reluctantly and formally complied. I hope the reader remembers how
earnestly I condemn this want of temper in myself.
His lordship took not the least notice of the coldness of my manner;
but, with simpering complacency, 'hoped I had been well, since he had
had the pleasure of seeing me.'
My reply was another slight inclination of the head, tinctured with
disdain: on which his lordship turned his back, with a kind of
open-mouthed nonchalance that was truly epigrammatic; and fell into
conversation with Sir Barnard, who had advanced toward the fire, with
all the apparent ease of the most intimate friendship: though, since
his lordship had changed sides, they had become, in politics at least,
the most outrageous enemies.
This brought a train of reflections into my mind, on the behaviour of
political partisans toward each other; and on the efforts they make,
after they have been venting the most cutting sarcasms in their mutual
parliamentary attacks, to behave out of doors as if they had totally
forgotten what had passed within: or were incapable, if not of
feeling, of remembering insult.
What is most remarkable, the men of greatest talent exert this amenity
with the greatest effect: for they utter and receive the most biting
reproaches, yet meet each other as if no such bickerings had ever
It is not then, in characters like these, hypocrisy?
No. It is an effort to live in harmony with mankind: yet to speak the
truth and tell them of their mistakes unsparingly, and regardless of
personal danger. In other words, it is an attempt to perform the most
sacred of duties: but the manner of performing it effectually has
hitherto been ill understood.
Sir Barnard had witnessed the short scene between me and his lordship;
and presently took occasion to ask me in a whisper, 'How and where we
had become acquainted?'
I replied 'I had resided in the house of his lordship.'
'Ay, indeed!' said the Baronet. 'In what capacity?'
My pride was piqued, and I answered, 'As his companion; and, as I
was taught to suppose myself, his friend. But I was soon cured of my
'By what means?'
'By his lordship's patriotism. By the purity of his politics.'
I spoke with a sneer, and the Baronet burst into a malicious laugh of
triumph: but, unwilling that the cause of it should be suspected, it
was instantly restrained.
'What concern had you,' continued he, 'in his lordship's politics?'
'I have reason to believe I helped to reconcile him to the Minister.'
'You, Mr. Trevor! How came you to do so unprincipled, so profligate, a
'It was wholly unintentional.'
'I do not understand you.'
'I wrote certain letters that were printed in the ----'
'What, Mr. Trevor! were you the author of the three last letters of
The Baronet's face glowed with exultation. 'I knew,' said he with a
vehement but under voice, 'he never wrote them himself! I have said it
a thousand times; and I am not easily deceived. Every body said the
There is no calculating how much the knowledge of this circumstance
raised me in Sir Barnard's opinion; and consequently elevated himself,
in the idea he conceived of his own power. 'Had he indeed got hold of
the author of Themistocles? Why then he was a great man! A prodigious
senator! The wish of his heart was accomplished! He could now wreak
vengeance where he most wished it to fall; and fall it should, without
mercy or remission.' His little soul was on tip-toe, and he overlooked
Though we had retired to the farthest corner of the room, and his
lordship pretended to be engaged in chit chat with persons who were
proud of his condescension, I could perceive his suspicions were
awakened. His eye repeatedly gave enquiring glances; and, while it
endeavoured to counterfeit indifference by a stare, it was disturbed
and contracted by apprehension.
Malignity, hatred, and revenge, are closely related; and of these
passions men of but little mental powers are very susceptible. It is
happy for society that their impotence impedes the execution of their
desires. I was odious in the sight of Lord Idford in every point of
view: for he had first injured me; which, as has been often remarked,
too frequently renders him who commits the injury implacable; and he
had since encountered a rival in me; which was an insult that his
vanity and pride could ill indeed digest.
Still however he was a courtier; a man of fashion; a person of the
best breeding; and therefore could smile.
A smile is a delightful thing, when it is the genuine offspring of the
heart: but heaven defend me from the jaundiced eye, the simpering lip,
and the wrinkled cheek; that turn smiles to grimace, and give the lie
to open and undisguised pleasure.
It was a smile such as this that his lordship bestowed upon me, when
I and the Baronet joined his group. Addressing himself to me, with a
simper that anticipated the pain he intended to give, he said--'Do you
know, Mr. Trevor, that your friend the bishop of **** is to dine with
us? You will be glad to meet each other.'
I instantly replied, with fire in my eyes, 'I shall be as glad to
meet that most pious and right reverend pastor as I was to meet your
Agreeably to rule, he bowed; and gave the company to understand he
took this as a polite acknowledgment of respect. But his gesture was
accompanied with a disconcerted leer of smothered malice, which I
could not misinterpret. It was sardonic; and, to me, who knew what was
passing in his heart, disgusting, and painful.
I had scarcely spoken before my lord the bishop entered; and with him,
as two supporters--Heavens! Who?--The president of the college where
I had been educated; and the tutor, whose veto had prevented me from
taking my degrees!
In the life of every man of enterprise there are moments of extreme
peril. In an instant, and as it were by enchantment, I saw myself
surrounded by the cowardly, servile, dwarf-demons, for so my
imagination painted them, who had been my chief tormentors. Or rather
by reptiles the most envenomed; with which I was shut up, as if I had
been thrown into their den; and by which, if I did not exterminate
them, I must expect to be devoured.
But these feelings were of short duration. My heart found an immediate
repellent, both to fear and revenge, in my eyes. Good God! What were
the figures now before me? Such as to excite pity, in every bosom
that was not shut to commiseration for the vices into which mankind
are mistakenly hurried; and for their deplorable consequences.
What a fearful alteration had a few months produced! In the bishop
He had been struck by the palsy, and dragged one side along with
extreme difficulty. His bloated cheeks and body had fallen into deep
pits; and the swelling massy parts were of a black-red hue, so that
the skin appeared a bag of morbid contents. His mouth was drawn awry,
his speech entirely inarticulate, his eye obscured by thick rheum,
and his clothes were stained by the saliva that occasionally driveled
from his lips. His legs were wasted, his breast was sunk, and his
protuberant paunch looked like the receptacle of dropsy, atrophy,
catarrh, and every imaginable malady.
My heart sunk within me. Poor creature! What would I have given
to have possessed the power of restoring thee to something human!
Resentment to thee? Alas! Had I not felt compassion, such as never can
be forgotten, I surely should have despised, should have almost hated,
The president was evidently travelling the same road. His legs, which
had been extremely muscular, instead of being as round and smooth in
their surface as they formerly were, each appeared to be covered with
innumerable nodes; that formed irregular figures, and angles. What
they were swathed with I cannot imagine: but I conjecture there must
have been stiff brown paper next to the smooth silk stocking, which
produced the irregularities of the surface. The dullness of his eyes,
the slowness of their motions, his drooping eyelids, his flaccid
cheeks, his hanging chin, and the bagging of his cloaths, all denoted
waste, want of animation, lethargy, debility and decline.
The condition of the tutor was no less pitiable. He was gasping with
an asthma; and was obliged incessantly to struggle with suffocation.
It was what physicians call a confirmed case: while he lived, he was
doomed to live in pain. Where is the tyrant that can invent tortures,
equal to those which men invent for themselves?
These were the guests who were come to feast: to indulge appetites
they had never been able to subdue, though their appetites were vipers
that were eating away their vitals.
How strongly did this scene bring to my recollection Pope on the
ruling passion! I could almost fancy I heard the poor bishop quoting
'Mercy! cries Helluo, mercy on my soul!
'Is there no hope?--Alas!--Then bring the jowl.'
The present man is but the slave of the past. What induced the
president and the tutor, when the bishop's more able-bodied footmen
had rather carried than conducted him up stairs, officially to become
his supporters as he entered the room? Was it unmixed humanity? Or was
it those servile habits to which their cunning had subjected them? and
by which they supposed not only that preferment but that happiness was
Humanity doubtless had its share; for it is a sensation that never
utterly abandons the breast of man: and, as it is often strengthened
by a consciousness that we ourselves are in need of aid, let us
suppose that the president and the tutor were become humane.
Though feelings of acrimony towards these persons were entirely
deadened in me by the spectacle I beheld, yet I knew not well how
to behave. I was prompted to shew them how placable I was become,
by accosting them first: but this might be misconstrued into that
servility for which I had thought of them with so much contempt.
Beside, the bishop and the president, if not the tutor, were in the
phraseology of the world my superiors; and etiquette had established
the rule that, if they thought proper to notice me, they would be the
first to salute.
His lordship however eased me of farther trouble on this head, by
asking the bishop--'Have you forgotten your old acquaintance Mr.
Trevor, my lord?'
What answer this consecrated right reverend father returned I could
not hear. He muttered something: but the sounds were as unintelligible
as the features of his face; or the drooping deadness of his eyes. The
president, however, hearing this, thought proper to bow: though very
slightly, till the earl added, with a significant emphasis on the two
last words--'Sir Barnard is become Mr. Trevor's particular friend;'
which was no sooner pronounced than the countenances of both the
bishop's supporters changed, to something which might be called
exceedingly civil, in the tutor, and prodigiously condescending, in
This was a memorable day: and, if the event which I have now to relate
should be offensive to the feelings of any man, or any class of men,
I can only say that I share the common fate of historians: who,
though they should relate nothing but facts, never fail to excite
displeasure, if not resentment and persecution, in the partisans of
this or that particular opinion, faction, or establishment.
The dinner was served. It was sumptuous: or rather such as gluttony
delights in. The persons assembled, I am sorry to say it, were several
of them gluttons; and encouraged and countenanced each other in the
vice to which they were addicted.
Dish succeeded to dish: and one plateful was but devoured that another
and another might be gorged.
Fatal insensibility to the warning voice of experience!
The poor bishop was unable to resist his destiny.
I had a foreboding of the mischief that might result from a stomach at
once so debilitated and so overloaded. I wished to have spoken: I was
tempted to exclaim--'Rash man, beware!' I could not keep my eyes away
from him: till at length I suddenly remarked a strange appearance,
that came over his face; and, almost at the same instant, he dropped
from his chair in an apoplectic fit.
The description of his foaming mouth, distorted features, dead eyes,
the whites of which only were to be seen, his writhings, his--
No! I must forbear. The picture I witnessed could give nothing but
pain; mingled with disgust, and horror. If I suggest that poor
oppressed nature made the most violent struggles, to empty and relieve
herself, there will perhaps be more than sufficient of the scene of
which I was a spectator conjured up in the imagination.
The bishop had been a muscular man, with a frame of uncommon strength;
and the paroxysm, though extreme, did not end in death. Medical
assistance was obtained, and he was borne away as soon as the crisis
was over: but the festivity for which the company had met was
disturbed. Many of them were struck with terror; dreading lest they
had only been present at horrors that, soon or late, were to light
upon themselves. They departed appalled by the scene they had
witnessed, and haunted by images of a foreboding, black, and
From these Sir Barnard himself was not wholly free: though he had been
less guilty of gormandizing than many of his associates: and, for
my own part, this incident left an impression upon me which I am
persuaded will be salutary through life.
_A few reflections: A word concerning friends, and the duties of
friendship: News of Thornby; or the equity of the dying: The decease
of my mother: A curious letter on the obsequies of the dead: The real
and the ideal being unlike to each other_
How different is the same man, at different periods of his existence!
How very unlike were the bowing well bred Earl of Idford, and the
asthmatic tutor, of this day, to the Lord Sad-dog and his Jack; whom,
but a few years before, I first met at college!
The president too at that time was, quite as much in form as in
office, one of the pillars of the university. And the bishop! What a
lamentable change had a short period produced!
Happy would it be for men did they recollect that change they must;
and that, if they will but be sufficiently attentive to circumstances,
they may change for the better.
Time kept rolling on; and I had variety of occupation. Neither my
studies, my fashionable acquaintances, nor those whom I justly loved
as my friends, were neglected. Mr. Evelyn continued for some time in
town; attending to his anatomical and chymical studies. Wilmot had
completed his comedy. It had been favourably received by the manager;
and was to be the second new piece brought forward. Turl, with equal
perseverance, was pursuing his own plans: and, though I heard nothing
more from Olivia, my heart was at ease. I knew the motives on which
she acted; and had her assurance that, if I should be again defamed, I
should now be heard in my own defence.
I was careful not to forget honest Clarke; nor was the kind-hearted
Mary neglected. The good carpenter had sent for his wife and family up
to town; and Mary was happy in the friendly attentions of Miss Wilmot,
and in the orderly conduct and quick improvement of her son.
One of my pleasures, and duties as I conceived it to be, was to
introduce Turl and Wilmot to such of my higher order of acquaintance
as might afford both parties gratification. There is much frivolity
among people of rank and fashion: but there is likewise some enquiry
and sound understanding; and, where these qualities exist in any
eminent degree, the friends I have named could not but be welcome.
It is the interest of men of all orders to converse with each other,
to listen to their mutual pretensions with patience, to be slow to
condemn, and to be liberal in the construction of what they at first
suppose to be dangerous novelty.
Turl was peculiarly fitted to promote these principles: and Wilmot, in
addition to the charms of an imagination finely stored, was possessed,
as the reader may remember, of musical talents; and those of no
inferior order. Days and weeks passed not unpleasantly away: for hope
and Olivia were ever present to my imagination, and of the ills which
fortune had in reserve I was little aware.
While business and pleasure thus appeared to promote each other, it
came to my knowledge that an advertisement had appeared in the papers:
stating that, if Hugh Trevor, the grandson of the reverend **** rector
of ***, were alive, by application at a place there named, he might
hear of something very much to his advantage.
I cannot enumerate the conjectures that this intelligence immediately
excited; for they were endless. I searched the papers, found the
advertisement, and hastened to the place to which it directed me.
The information I there received was not precisely what my elevated
hopes had taught me to expect: but it was of considerable moment. I
learned that my grandfather's executor, Mr. Thornby, was dead; that
his nephew, Wakefield, had taken possession of the property he had
left; but that he had done this illegally: for the person who caused
the advertisement to be put into the paper was an attorney, who had
drawn and witnessed the will of Thornby, which will was in my favour;
and which moreover stated that the property bequeathed to me was mine
in right of a will of my grandfather's; which will Thornby had till
that time kept concealed. Whether the testament he had produced,
immediately after the death of the rector, were one that Thornby had
forged, or one that my grandfather had actually made but had ordered
his executor to destroy, did not at present appear. The account I
gave of it in a preceding volume, and of the manner in which it was
procured, was the substance of what I learned from the conversation of
my mother and Thornby at the time.
A death-bed compunction had wrested from the deceased an avowal of his
guilt; and the facts were explicitly stated, in the preamble of his
will, in order to prevent the contest which he foresaw might probably
take place, between me and his nephew. He seemed to have been
painfully anxious to do justice at last; and save his soul, when he
found it must take flight.
The business was urgent; and, if I meant to profit by that which was
legally mine, it was necessary, as I was advised, immediately to go
down and examine into all the circumstances on the spot.
I was the more surprised at what I had heard because it was but very
lately that I had sent a remittance to my mother; which she had
acknowledged, and which must have been received after her husband had
taken possession of his uncle's effects. But, when I recollected
the character that had been given me of Wakefield, as far as the
transaction related to him, my surprise was of short duration.
With respect to my mother, I heard with no small degree of
astonishment that she had been applied to, in order to discover where
I might be found; and that she had returned evasive answers: which as
it was supposed had been dictated by her husband; under whose control,
partly from fear and partly from an old woman's doating, she was
To say that I grieved at such weakness, in one whom I had so earnestly
desired to love and honor with more than filial affection, would be
superfluous: but my surprise would have instantly ceased, had I known
who this Wakefield was; with whom my mother had to contend.
Reproach from me however, in word or look, had I been so inclined, she
was destined never to receive. The career of pain and pleasure with
her was nearly over. On the same day that I made the enquiries I have
been repeating, a letter arrived; written not by her, but at her
request; which informed me that, if I meant to see her alive, I must
use all possible speed: for that she had been suddenly seized with
dangerous and intolerable pains; which according to the description
given in the letter, were such as I found from enquiry belong to the
iliac passion; and that she was then lying at the last extremity.
Two such imperious mandates, requiring my presence in my native
county, were not to be disobeyed; and I departed with the utmost
diligence. At the last stage, after a journey of unremitted
expedition, I ordered the chaise to drive to the house of the late
Thornby; where on enquiry I was informed that my mother lay.
I found her in a truly pitiable condition. Quicksilver had been
administered, but in vain; and she was so thoroughly exhausted
that the sight of me produced but very little emotion. Her medical
attendant pronounced she could not survive four-and-twenty hours; and
advised that, if there were any business to be settled between us, it
should be proceeded upon immediately.
Had this advice been given to persons of certain habits, assuredly,
it would not have been neglected; and, perhaps it ought not to have
been by me: but, whether I was right or wrong, I could not endure
to perplex and disturb the mind of a mother in her last agonies.
The consequence was, she expired without hearing a word from me,
concerning her husband, Thornby, or the property to which I was heir;
and without making any mention whatever herself of the disposal of
this property. I was indeed ignorant of what degree of information she
could afford me. Her conduct had been so weak that to remind her of
it, at such a moment, would, as I supposed, have been to inflict a
severe degree of torment.
This, as the reader will learn in time, was not the only shaft by
which my tranquillity was to be assaulted. My mother though she was,
there was yet another death infinitely more heart-rending hanging over
my head. The recollection is anguish that cannot end! Cannot did I
say? Absurd mortal. Live for the living; and grieve not for the dead:
unless grief could bid them rise from their graves.
I must proceed; and not suffer my feelings thus to anticipate my tale.
Knowing that Wakefield was no other than Belmont, the reader will
not be surprised that he should think proper to elude, under these
circumstances, the discovery which a meeting must have produced. My
mother, actuated by a conviction that death was inevitable, had sent
for me without his privity: so that I afterward learned he was in the
house, when I drove up to the door: and, seeing me put my head out of
the chaise, immediately made his escape through the garden.
A man less fertile in expedients would have found it difficult to
forge a plausible pretext, to evade being present and meeting me at
the funeral: but he, by pursuing what wore the face of being, and what
I believe actually was, very rational conduct, dexterously shunned the
rencontre. The following letter, which he wrote to me, will explain by
'Persons of understanding have discovered that the obsequies of the
dead may be performed with all due decorum, and the pain, as well
as the very frequent hypocrisy, of a funeral procession, which is
attended by friends and relations, avoided. They therefore with great
good sense hire people to mourn; or send their empty carriages,
with the blinds up: which perhaps is quite as wise, and no doubt as
agreeable to the dead.
'He that would not render the duties of humanity, while they can
succour those that are afflicted, may justly be called brutal; but,
those duties being paid, what remains is more properly the business
of carpenters, grave-diggers, and undertakers, than of men whose
happiness is disturbed by useless but gloomy associations; and who may
find better employment for their time.
'I, for example, have business, at present, that calls me another way.
I therefore request you will give such orders, concerning the funeral,
as you shall think proper: and, as I have no doubt you will agree with
me that decency, and not unnecessary pomp, which cannot honor the
dead, and does but satirise the living, will be most creditable to
Mrs. Wakefield's memory, the expence, as it ought, will be defrayed by
I am, sir,
Your very obedient humble servant,
Had such a letter been written by a man who had pretended fondness
for his wife, it might perhaps have been construed unfeeling: if not
insulting to her memory. But, as the case was notoriously the reverse,
the honest contempt of all affectation, which it displayed, I could
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