LETTER 67: MRS HOWE, TO CHARLES HICKMAN

Thursday, March 30. 

I cannot but say, Mr. Hickman, but you have cause to be dissatisfied—to be out of humour— to be displeased—with Nancy—But, upon my word; But indeed—What shall I say? —Yet this I will say, that you good young gentlemen know nothing at all of our Sex. Shall I tell you—But why should I? And yet I will say, That if Nancy did not think well of you in the main, she is too generous to treat you so freely as she does. —Don’t you think she has courage enough to tell me, She would not see you, and to refuse at any time seeing you, as she knows on what account you come, if she had not something in her head favourable to you? —Fie! that I am forced to say thus much in writing, when I have hinted it to you twenty and twenty times by word of mouth!

 

But if you are so indifferent, Mr. Hickman—If you think you can part with her for her skittish tricks—If my interest in your favour—Why, Mr. Hickman, I must tell you, that my Nancy is worth bearing with. If she be foolish —what is that owing to? —Is it not to her Wit ? Let me tell you, Sir, you cannot have the convenience without the inconvenience. What workman loves not a sharp tool to work with? But is there not more danger from a sharp tool, than from a blunt one? And what workman will throw away a sharp tool, because it may cut his fingers? Wit may be likened to a sharp tool. And there is something very pretty in wit, let me tell you. Often and often have I been forc’d to smile at her arch turns upon me, when I could have beat her for them. And, pray, don’t I bear a great deal from her? —And why? Because I love her. And would you not wish me to judge of your Love for her by my own? And would not you bear with her? —Don’t you love her (what tho’ with another sort of Love?) as well as I do? I do assure you, Sir, that if I thought you did not—Well, but it is plain that you don’t! —And is it plain that you don’t? —Well, then, you must do as you think best.

 

Well might the merit of your passion be doubted, you say, if, like Mr. Solmes—Fiddle-faddle! — Why, you are a captious man, I think! —Has Nancy been so plain in her repulses of you as Miss Clary Harlowe has been to Mr. Solmes? —Does Nancy love any man better than you, altho’ she may not shew so much Love to you as you wish for? —If she did, let me tell you, she would have let us all hear of it. —What idle comparisons then!

 

But it may be you are tired out. It may be you have seen somebody else—It may be you would wish to change Mistresses with that gay wretch Mr. Lovelace. It may be too, that, in that case, Nancy would not be sorry to change Lovers—The truly admirable Miss ClarissaHarlowe! And the excellent Miss Clarissa Harlowe! —Good-lack! —But take care, Mr. Hickman, that you do not praise any woman living, let her be as admirable and as excellent as she will, above your own Mistress. No polite man will do that, surely. And take care too, that you do not make her or me think you are in earnest in your anger—Just tho’ it may be, as anger only—I would not for a thousand pounds, that Nancy should know that you can so easily part with her, if you have the Love for her which you declare you have. Be sure, if you are not absolutely determined, that you do not so much as whisper the contents of this your Letter to your own heart, as I may say.

Her treatment of you, you say, does no credit either to her education or fine sense. Very home put, truly! Nevertheless, so say I. But is not hers the disgrace, more than yours? I can assure you, that every-body blames her for it. And why do they blame her? —Why? Because they think you merit better treatment at her hands: And is not this to your credit? Who but pities you, and blames her ? Do the servants, who, as you observe, see her skittish airs, disrespect you for them? Do they not, at such times, look concerned for you? Are they not then doubly officious in their respects and services to you? —I have observed with pleasure, that they are.

 

But you are afraid you shall be thought tame, perhaps, when married. That you shall not be thought manly enough, I warrant! —And this was poor Mr. Howe’s fear. And many a tug did this lordly fear cost us both, God knows! —Many more than needed, I am sure: —And more than ought to have been, had he known how to bear and forbear ; as is the duty of those who pretend to have most sense—And, pray, which would you have to have most sense, the woman or the man?

 

Well, Sir, and now what remains, if you really love Nancy so well as you say you do? —Why, I leave that to you. You may, if you please, come to breakfast with me in the morning. But with no full heart, nor resenting looks, I advise you; except you can brave it out. That have I, when provoked, done many a time with my Husband ; but never did I get any-thing by it with my Daughter : Much less will you. Of which, for your observation, I thought fit to advertise you. As from

 

Your Friend,
Annabella Howe

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