LETTER 34: ROBERT LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD

 

Friday March 17.

I receive, with great pleasure, the early and chearful assurances of your loyalty and love. And let our principal and most trusty friends named in my last know that I do.

 

I would have thee, Jack, come down, as soon as thou canst. I believe I shall not want the others so soon. Yet they may come down to Lord M’s. I will be there, if not to receive them, to satisfy my Lord, that there is no new mischief in hand, which will require his second intervention.

 

 

For thyself, thou must be constantly with me: Not for my security : The family dare do nothing but bully: They bark only at distance: But for myentertainment : That thou mayst, from the Latin and the English Classics, keep my love-sick soul from drooping.

 

 

Thou hadst best come to me here, in thy old corporal’s coat; thy servant out of livery; and to be upon a familiar foot with thee, as a distant relation, to be provided for by thy interest above; I mean not in heaven, thou mayst be sure. Thou wilt find me at a little alehouse; they call it an inn; The White-Hart; most terribly wounded (but by the weather only) the sign:—In a sorry village; within five miles from Harlowe-Place. Every-body knows Harlowe-Place —For, like Versailles, it is sprung up from a dunghil, within every elderly person’s remembrance: Every poor body, particularly, knows it: But that only for a few years past, since a certain angel has appeared there among the sons and daughters of men.

 

 

The people here, at the Hart, are poor, but honest; and have gotten it into their heads, that I am a man of quality in disguise; and there is no reining in their officious respect. There is a pretty little smirking daughter; seventeen six days ago: I call her my Rose-bud: Her grandmother (for there is no mother), a good neat old woman, as ever filled a wicker-chair in a chimney-corner, has besought me to be merciful to her.

 

 

This is the right way with me. Many and many a pretty rogue had I spared, whom I did not spare, had my power been acknowleged, and my mercy been in time implored. But the Debellare superbos should be my motto, were I to have a new one.

 

 

This simple chit, (for there is a simplicity in her thou wilt be highly pleased with: All humble; all officious; all innocent—I love her for her humility, her officiousness, and even for her innocence ) will be pretty amusement to thee; while I combat with the weather, and dodge and creep about the walls and purlieus of Harlowe-Place. Thou wilt see in her mind, all that her superiors have been taught to conceal, in order to render themselves less natural, and more undelightful.

 

 

But I charge thee, that thou do not (what I would not permit myself to do, for the world—I charge thee, that thou do not) crop my Rose-bud. She is the only flower of fragrance, that has blown in this vicinage for ten years past; or will for ten years to come: For I have look’d backward to the have-been’s, and forward to the will-be’s ; having but too much leisure upon my hands in my present waiting.

 

 

I never was so honest for so long together since my matriculation. It behoves me so to be—Some way or other, my recess may be found out; and it will then be thought that my Rose-bud has attracted me. A report in my favour, from simplicities so amiable, may establish me; for the grandmother’s relation to my Rose-bud may be sworn to: And the father is an honest poor man: Has no joy, but in his Rose-bud. —O Jack! spare thou therefore (for I shall leave thee often alone; spare thou) my Rose-bud! —Let the rule I never departed from, but it cost me a long regret, be observed to my Rose-bud! Never to ruin a poor girl, whose simplicity and innocence was all she had to trust to; and whose fortunes were too low to save her from the rude contempts of worse minds than her own, and from an indigence extreme: Such an one will only pine in secret; and at last, perhaps, in order to refuge herself from slanderous tongues and virulence, be induced to tempt some guilty stream, or seek an end in the knee-incircling garter, that, peradventure, was the first attempt of abandoned Love. —No defiances will my Rose-bud breathe; no self -dependent, thee -doubting watchfulness (indirectly challenging thy inventive machinations to do their worst), will she assume. Unsuspicious of her danger, the lamb’s throat will hardly shun thy knife! —O be not thou the butcher of my lambkin!

 

 

The less be thou so, for the reason I am going to give thee—The gentle heart is touched by Love! Her soft bosom heaves with a passion she has not yet found a name for. I once caught her eye following a young carpenter, a widow neighbour’s son, living (to speak in her dialect) at the little white-house over the way : A gentle youth he also seems to be, about three years older than herself: Play-mates from infancy, till his eighteenth and her fifteenth year, furnished a reason for a greater distance in shew, while their hearts gave a better for their being nearer than ever: For I soon perceived the Love reciprocal: A scrape and a bow at first seeing his pretty mistress; turning often to salute her following eye; and, when a winding lane was to deprive him of her sight, his whole body turned round, his hat more reverently d’off’d, than before. This answered (for, unseen, I was behind her) by a low courtesy, and a sigh, that Johnny was too far off to hear! —Happy Whelp! said I to myself! —I withdrew; and in tript my Rose-bud, as if satisfied with the dumb shew, and wishing nothing beyond it.

 

 

I have examined the little heart: She has made me her confident: She owns, she could love Johnny Barton very well: And Johnny Barton has told her, He could love her better than any maiden he ever saw—But, alas! it must not be thought of. Why not be thought of? —She don’t know! —And then she sighed: But Johnny has an aunt, who will give him an hundred pounds, when his time is out; and her father cannot give her but a few things, or so, to set her out with: And tho’ Johnny’s mother says, she knows not where Johnny would have a prettier, or notabler wife, yet—And then she sighed again— What signifies talking? —I would not have Johnny be unhappy, and poor for me! —For what good would that do me, you know, Sir!

 

 

What would I give (—By my soul, my angel will indeed reform me, if her friends implacable folly ruin us not both! What would I give) to have so innocent, and so good a heart, as either my Rose-bud’s, or Johnny’s!

 

I have a confounded mischievous one—by nature too, I think! —A good motion now-and-then rises from it: But it dies away presently! —A love of intrigue! —An invention for mischief! —A triumph in subduing! —Fortune encouraging and supporting! — And a constitution—What signifies palliating? But I believe I had been a rogue, had I been a plough-boy.

 

 

But the devil’s in this sex! Eternal misguiders! Who, that has once trespassed, ever recovered his integrity? And yet where there is not virtue, which nevertheless we free-livers are continually plotting to destroy, what is there even in the ultimate of our wishes with them? — Preparation andExpectation are, in a manner, every-thing: Reflection, indeed, may be something, if the mind be hardened above feeling the guilt of a past trespass : But the Fruition, what is there in that? And yet, That being the end, nature will not be satisfied without it.

 

 

See what grave reflections an innocent subject will produce! It gives me some pleasure to think, that it is not out of my power to reform: But then, Jack, I am afraid I must keep better company, than I do at present—For we certainly harden one another. But be not cast down, my boy; there will be time enough to give thee, and all thy brethren, warning to choose another leader: And I fansy thou wilt be the man.

 

 

Mean time, as I make it my rule, whenever I have committed a very capital enormity, to do some good, by way of atonement; and as I believe I am a pretty deal indebted on that score, I intend, before I leave these parts (successfully shall I leave them, I hope, or I shall be tempted to do double the mischief by way of revenge, tho’ not to my Rose-bud any), to join an hundred pounds to Johnny’s aunt’s hundred pounds, to make one innocent couple happy. —I repeat, therefore, and for half-a-dozen more therefores, spare thou my Rose-bud.

 

 

An interruption: —Another letter anon; and both shall go together.

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