From Mr. Lovelace ; In Continuation.
This is Wednesday; the day that I was to have lost my charmer for ever! —With what high satisfaction and hearts-ease can I now sit down, and triumph over my men in straw at Harlowe-Place! Yet ’tis perhaps best for them, that she got off as she did. Who knows what consequences might have follow’d upon my attending her in; or (if she had not met me) upon my projected visit, followed by my Myrmidons?
But had I even gone in with her un-accompany’d, I think I had but little reason for apprehension: For well thou knowest, that the tame Spirits which value themselves upon reputation, and are held within the skirts of the law by political considerations only, may be compar’d to an infectious spider; which will run into his hole the moment one of his threads is touched by a finger that can crush him, leaving all his toils defenceless, and to be brush’d down at the will of the potent invader. While a silly fly, that has neither courage nor strength to resist, no sooner gives notice by its buz and its struggle, of its being intangled, but out steps the self-circumscribed tyrant, winds round and round the poor insect, till he covers it with his bowel-spun toils; and when so fully secured, that it can neither move leg nor wing, suspends it, as if for a spectacle to be exulted over: Then stalking to the door of his cell, turns about, glotes over it at a distance; and, sometimes advancing, sometimes retireing, preys at leisure upon its vitals.
But now I think of it, will not this comparison do as well for the intangled girls, as for the tame spirits? —Better o’ my conscience! —‘Tis but comparing the spider to us brave fellows; and it quadrates.
Whatever our hearts are in, our heads will follow. Begin with spiders, with flies, with what we will, the Girl is the centre of gravity, and we all naturally tend to it.
Nevertheless, to recur; I cannot but observe, that these tame spirits stand a poor chance in a fairly offensive war with such of us mad fellows, as are above all law, and scorn to skulk behind the hypocritical screen of reputation.
Thou knowest, that I never scrupled to throw myself among numbers of adversaries; the more the safer: One or two, no fear, will take the part of a single adventurer, if not intentionally, in fact : holding him in, while others hold in the principal antagonist, to the augmentation of their mutual prowess, still both are prevailed upon to compromise, or one to absent. So that upon the whole, the law-breakers have the advantage of the law-keepers, all the world over; at least for a time, till they have run to the end of their race. —Add to this, in the question between me and the Harlowes, that the whole family of them must know that they have injur’d me—Did they not, at their own church, cluster together like bees, when they saw me enter it? Nor knew they which should venture out first, when the Service was over James, indeed, was not there. If he had, he would perhaps have endeavour’d to look valiant. But there is a sort of valour in the face, which, by its over -bluster, shews fear in the heart : Just such a face would James Harlowe’s have been, had I made them a visit.
When I have had such a face and such a heart as that to deal with, I have been all calm and serene, and left it to the friends of such a one, as I have done to the Harlowes, to do my work for me.
I am about mustering up in my memory, all that I have ever done, that has been thought praise-worthy, or but barely tolerable. I am afraid thou canst not help me to many remembrances of this sort; because I never was so bad as since I have known thee.
Have I not had it in my heart to do some good that thou canst remind me of? Study for me, Jack. I have recollected several instances, which I think will tell in : —But see if thou canst not help me to some which I may have forgot.
This I may venture to say, That the principal blot in my escutcheon is owing to these Girls, these confounded Girls. But for Them, I could go to church with a good conscience: But when I do, There they are. Every-where does Satan spread his snares for me!
But, now I think of it, what if our governors should appoint churches for the women only, and others for the men? —Full as proper, I think, for the promoting of true piety in both, [Much better than the synagogue-lattices] as separate boarding-schools for their education .
There are already male and female dedications of churches.
St. Swithin’s, St. Stephen’s, St. Thomas’s, St. George’s, and so forth, might be appropriated to the men; and the Santa Katharina’s, Santa Anna’s, Santa Maria’s, Santa Margaretta’s, for the women!
Yet, were it so, and life to be the forfeiture of being found at the female churches, I believe I should, like a second Clodius, change my dress, to come at my Portia or Calpurnia, tho’ one the daughter of a Cato, the other the wife of a Cæsar.
But how I excurse ! —Yet thou usedst to say, thou likedst my excursions. If thou dost, thou’lt have enow of them: For I never had a subject I so much adored; and with which I shall probably be compelled to have so much patience, before I strike the blow; if the blow I do strike.
But let me call myself back to my recordation -subject —Thou needest not to remind me of my Rosebud. I have her in my head; and moreover have contrived to give my fair-one an hint of that affair, by the agency of honest Joseph Leman ( a ) ; altho’ I have not reaped the hoped-for credit of her acknowlegement.—
That’s the devil; and it was always my hard fate— Every thing I do that is good, is but as I ought ! — Every thing of a contrary nature is brought into the most glaring light against me! —Is this fair? Ought not a balance to be struck? and the credit carried to my account? —Yet I must own too, that I half grudge Johnny this blooming maiden; for, in truth, I think a fine woman too rich a jewel to hang about a poor man’s neck.
Surely, Jack, if I am in a fault in my universal adorations of the sex, the women in general ought to love me the better for it.
And so they do, I thank them heartily; except here and there a covetous little rogue comes cross me, who, under the pretence of loving virtue for its own take, wants to have me all to herself.—
I have rambled enough.—
Adieu, for the present.
( a ) See L 64.