LETTER 99: MR LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ

Mr. Lovelace, To John Belford, Esq;
Tuesday, Wedn. Apr. 11. 12.

You claim my promise, that I will be as particular as possible, in all that passes between me and my goddess. Indeed, I never had a more illustrious subject to exercise my pen upon. And, moreover, I have leisure; for by her good will, my access would be as difficult to her, as that of the humblest slave to an Eastern Monarch. Nothing, then, but inclination to write can be wanting: And since our friendship, and your obliging attendance upon me at the White Hart, will not excuse That, I will endeavour to keep my word.

I parted with thee and thy brethren, with a full resolution, thou knowest, to rejoin ye, if she once again disappointed me, in order to go together (attended by our servants, for shew-sake) to the gloomy Father; and demand audience of the tyrant upon the freedoms taken with my character. In short, to have tried by fair means, if fair would do, to make him change his resolutions; and treat his charming Daughter with less inhumanity, and me with more civility.

I told thee my reasons for not going in search of a Letter of countermand. I was right; for if I had, I should have found such a one; and had I received it, she would not have met me. Did she think, that after I had been more than once disappointed, I would not keep her to her promise; that I would not hold her to it, when I had got her in so deeply?

The moment I heard the door unbolt, I was sure of her. That motion made my heart bound to my throat. But when That was followed with the presence of my Charmer, flashing upon me all at once in a flood of brightness, sweetly dressed, tho’ all unprepared for a journey, I trod air, and hardly thought myself a mortal.

Thou shalt judge of her dress, as, at the moment I first beheld her, she appeared to me, and as, upon a nearer observation, she really was. I am a Critic, thou knowest, in womens dresses. Many a one have I taught to dress, and helped to undress. But there is such a native elegance in this Lady, that she surpasses all that I could imagine surpassing. But then her person adorns what she wears, more than dress can adorn her; and that’s her excellence.

Expect therefore a faint sketch of her admirable person with her dress.

Her wax-like flesh (for, after all, flesh and blood I think she is) by its delicacy and firmness, answers for the soundness of her health. Thou hast often heard me launch out in praise of her complexion. I never in my life beheld a skin so illustriously fair. The Lily and the driven Snow it is nonsense to talk of: Her Lawn and her Laces one might indeed compare to those: But what a whited wall would a woman appear to be, who had a complexion which would justify such unnatural comparisons? But this Lady is all glowing, all charming flesh and blood; yet so clear, that every meandring vein is to be seen in all the lovely parts of her which custom permits to be visible.

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Thou hast heard me also describe the wavy Ringlets of her shining hair, needing neither art nor powder; of itself an ornament, defying all other ornaments; wantoning in and about a neck that is beautiful beyond description.

Her head-dress was a Brussels-lace mob, peculiarly adapted to the charming air and turn of her features. A sky-blue ribband illustrated that. But altho’ the weather was somewhat sharp, she had not on either hat or hood; for, besides that she loves to use herself hardily (by which means, and by a temperance truly exemplary, she is allowed to have given high health and vigour to an originally tender constitution) she seems to have intended to shew me, that she was determined not to stand to her appointment. O Jack! that such a sweet girl should be a rogue!

Her morning-gown was a pale primrose-coloured paduasoy: The cuffs and robings curiously embroidered by the fingers of this ever-charming Arachne, in a running pattern of violets and their leaves; the light in the flowers silver; gold in the leaves. A pair of diamond snaps in her ears. A white handkerchief wrought by the same inimitable fingers, concealed— O Belford! what still more inimitable beauties did it not conceal! —And I saw, all the way we rode, the bounding heart (by its throbbing motions I saw it!) dancing beneath the charming umbrage.

Her ruffles were the same as her mob. Her apron a flowered lawn. Her coat white satten, quilted: Blue satten her shoes, braided with the same colour, without lace; for what need has the prettiest foot in the world of ornament? Neat buckles in them: And on her charming arms a pair of black velvet glove-like muffs, of her own invention; for she makes and gives fashions as she pleases. —Her hands velvet of themselves, thus uncovered the freer to be grasped by those of her adorer.

I have told thee what were my transports, when

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the undrawn bolt presented to me my long-expected goddess. — Her emotions were more sweetly feminine, after the first moments; for then the fire of her starry eyes began to sink into a less dazling languor. She trembled: Nor knew she how to support the agitations of a heart she had never found so ungovernable. She was even fainting, when I clasped her in my supporting arms. What a precious moment That! How near, how sweetly near, the throbbing partners!

By her dress, I saw, as I observed before, how unprepared she was for a journey; and not doubting her intention once more to disappoint me, I would have drawn her after me. Then began a contention the most vehement that ever I had with woman. It would pain thy friendly heart to be told the infinite trouble I had with her. I begged, I prayed; on my knees, yet in vain, I begged and prayed her to answer her own appointment: And had I not happily provided for such a struggle, knowing whom I had to deal with, I had certainly failed in my design; and as certainly would have accompanied her in, without thee and thy Brethren: And who knows what might have been the consequence?

But my honest agent answering my signal, tho’ not quite so soon as I expected, in the manner thou knowest I had prescribed, They are coming! They are coming! —Fly, fly, my beloved creature, cried I, drawing my sword with a flourish, as if I would have slain half an hundred of the supposed intruders; and, seizing her trembling hands, I drew her after me so swiftly, that my feet, winged by Love, could hardly keep pace with her feet, agitated by fear. —And so I became her Emperor.

I’ll tell thee all, when I see thee: And thou shalt then judge of my difficulties, and of her perverseness. And thou wilt rejoice with me at my conquest over such a watchful and open-eyed Charmer.

But seest thou not now (as I think I do) the wind-outstripping

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Fair-one flying from her Love to her Love? —Is there not such a game? —Nay, flying from friends she was resolved not to abandon, to the man she was determined not to go off with? —The Sex! The Sex, all over! —Charming contradiction! —Hah, hah, hah, hah!—I must here—I must here, lay down my pen, to hold my sides; for I must have my laugh out now the fit is upon me.

I believe —I believe—Hah, hah, hah! —I believe, Jack, my dogs conclude me mad: For here has one of them popt in, as if to see what ailed me; or whom I had with me. The whorson caught the laugh, as he went out. —Hah, hah, hah!—An im-pudent dog! — O Jack, knewest thou my conceit, and were but thy laugh joined to mine, I believe it would hold me for an hour longer.

But, O my best-beloved Fair-one, repine not thou at the Arts by which thou suspectest thy fruitless vigilance has been over-watched. —Take care, that thou provokest not new ones, that may be still more worthy of thee. If once thy Emperor decrees thy fall, thou shalt greatly fall. Thou shalt have cause, if that come to pass, which may come to pass (for why wouldest thou put off Marriage to so long a day, as till thou hadst reason to be convinced of my Reformation, dearest?) thou shalt have cause, never fear, to sit down more dissatisfied with thy Stars, than with thyself. And come the worst to the worst, glorious terms will I give thee. Thy garison, with general Prudence at the head, and governor Watchfulness bringing up the rear, shall be allowed to march out with all the honours due to so brave a resistance. And all thy Sex, and all mine, that hear of my stratagems, and of thy conduct, shall acknowlege the fortress as nobly won, as defended.

‘Thou wilt not dare, methinks I hear thee say, to attempt to reduce such a goddess as This, to a standard unworthy of her excellencies. It is impossible, Lovelace,

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that thou shouldst intend to break thro’ oaths and protestations so solemn.’

That I did not intend it, is certain. That I do intend it, I cannot (my heart, my reverence for her, will not let me) say. But knowest thou not my aversion to the State of Shackles? —And is she not In my Power ?

‘And wilt thou, Lovelace, abuse that power, which’—

Which what, Belford? —Which I obtained not by her own consent, but against it.

‘But which thou never hadst obtained, had she not esteemed thee above all men.’

And which I had never taken so much pains to obtain, had I not loved her above all women. So far upon a par, Jack! And, if thou pleadest Honour, ought not Honour to be mutual? If mutual, does it not imply mutual trust, mutual confidence? And what have I had of that from her to boast of? —Thou knowest the whole progress of our warfare: For a warfare it has truly been; and far, very far, from an amorous warfare too. Doubts, mistrusts, upbraidings, on her part: Humiliations the most abject, on mine. Obliged to assume such airs of Reformation, that every varlet of ye has been afraid I should reclaim in good earnest. And hast thou not thyself frequently observed to me, how aukwardly I returned to my usual gaiety, after I had been within a mile of her Father’s garden-wall, altho’ I had not seen her?

Does she not deserve to pay for all this? —To make an honest fellow look like an hypocrite; what a vile thing is that!

Then thou knowest what a false little rogue she has been. How little conscience she has made of disappointing me. Hast thou not been a witness of my raveings, on this score? —Have I not, in the height of them, vowed Revenge upon the faithless Charmer? —And, if I must be forsworn, whether I answer her expectations, or follow my own inclinations; and if the option be

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in my own power; can I hesitate a moment which to chuse?

Then, I fansy, by her circumspection, and her continual grief, that she expects some mischief from me. I don’t care to disappoint any-body I have a value for.

But O the noble, the exalted creature! Who can avoid hesitating when he thinks of an offence against her? Who can but pity—

Yet, on the other hand, so loth at last to venture, tho’ threatened to be forced into the nuptial fetters with a man, whom to look upon as a rival, is to disgrace myself! —So sullen, now she has ventured! —What title has she to pity; and to a pity which her pride would make her disclaim?

But I resolve not any way . I will see how her will works; and how my will leads me on. I will give the combatants fair play. And yet, every time I attend her, I find that she is less in my power; I more in hers .

Yet, a foolish little rogue! to forbid me to think of marriage till I am a reformed man! Till the Implacables of her family change their natures, and become placable!

It is true, when she was for making those conditions, she did not think, that, without any, she should be cheated out of herself ; for so the dear soul, as I may tell thee in its place, phrases it.

How it swells my pride, to have been able to outwit such a vigilant Charmer! I am taller by half a yard in my imagination than I was. I look down upon everybody now. Last night I was still more extravagant. I took off my hat, as I walked, to see if the Lace were not scorched, supposing it had brushed down a star; and, before I put it on again, in mere wantonness, and heart’s-ease, I was for buffeting the moon.

In short, my whole soul is joy. When I go to bed, I laugh myself asleep: And I awake either laughing or singing—Yet nothing nearly in view, neither—For why? —I am not yet reformed enough!

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I told thee at the time, if thou rememberest, how capable this restriction was of being turned upon the over-scrupulous dear creature, could I once get her out of her Father’s house; and were I disposed to punish her for her family’s faults, and for the infinite trouble she herself had given me. Little thinks she, that I have kept an account of both : And that, when my heart is soft, and all her own, I can but turn to my memoranda, and harden myself at once.

O my Charmer, look to it! Abate of thy haughty airs! Value not thyself upon thy Sincerity, if thou art indifferent to me! I will not bear it Now . Art thou not in my Power ? —Nor, if thou lovest me, think, that the female affectation of denying thy Love, will avail thee Now, with a heart so proud and so jealous as mine? —Remember, moreover, that all thy family-sins are upon thy head!—

But, ah! Jack, when I see my Angel, when I am admitted to the presence of this radiant Beauty, what will become of all this vapouring?

But, be my end what it may, I am obliged, by thy penetration, Fair-one, to proceed by the Sap. Fair and softly. A Wife at any time! Marriage will be always in my power.

When put to the University, the same course of initial Studies will qualify the Yonker for the one Line or for the other. The genius ought to point out the future Lawyer, Divine, or Physician! —So the same cautious conduct, with such a vigilance, will do either for the Wife, or for the No -wife. When I reform, I’ll marry. ‘Tis time enough for the one, the Lady must say—For the other, say I !

But how I ramble! —This it is to be in such a situation, that I know not what to resolve upon.

I’ll tell thee my inclinings, as I proceed. The pro’s and the con’s I’ll tell thee: But being got too far from the track I set out in, I will close here. I may however write every day something, and send it as opportunity offers.

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Regardless, nevertheless, I shall be in all I write, of connexion, accuracy, or of any-thing but of my own imperial will and pleasure.

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